Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Could Catalonia's Vote Boost Basque Independence?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Could Catalonia's Vote Boost Basque Independence?

Article excerpt

The results of Sunday's local elections in Catalonia will likely have most immediate impact in the independence-minded region and in the halls of Madrid's central government. But their effects within other Spanish communities that harbor hopes for independence may prove just as profound.

Particularly in the Basque Country, where a 2008 push for a national referendum on the region's political status was declared unconstitutional by Spain's highest court, and where October elections similarly saw voters hand a strong mandate to the region's two separatist parties, many were looking to Catalonia for a tell on how next to proceed.

For Basques it is very important what the Catalans are doing in Catalonia a majority is wanting to take steps towards independence, says Pello Urizar, a Basque parliament member from EH Bildu, the conglomeration of left-leaning Basque separatist parties that last month won the second-highest number of seats in the regional parliament. We don't yet have as clear of a consensus.

Catalan voters delivered a mixed message on Sunday night, dealing a heavy blow to Artur Mas, leader of Catalonia's ruling center- right nationalist party CiU, who had hoped for an absolute majority which would be a strong mandate for a referendum on Catalonian independence. But while the results still clearly supported the collection of political groups pushing for national independence from Spain, the CiU underperformed as its pro-austerity economic policies undercut its pro-independence efforts.

The Basque Country's pro-independence parties hope to learn from the Catalonian election in order to better find a popular balance.

Both [Catalonians and Basques] are looking for the right to decide our own future, despite our different histories, says Mr. Urizar. The results in Catalonia reinforce the fact that the road to independence can't be viewed just as social or just as economic.

Last month's election in the Basque Country saw a surge in nationalism much like Sunday's record turnout for Catalan nationalist parties, with strong support of separatists on both the left and the right. In October, the center-right Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and EH Bildu together won over 60 percent of the seats in the Basque Parliament, marking substantial gains for the Basque Country's separatist left.

'The fundamental difference'

Catalonia and the Basque Country are two of Spain's wealthiest communities, and since its financial collapse in 2008 both have been particularly vocal about the effect austerity measures imposed by Madrid on their economies. …

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