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Bildu's secret intentions

As long as ETA exists, Basque electoral contests cannot take place under equal conditions

With three months to go until the general elections, the aims of the abertzale (radical Basque separatist) left seem to be to obtain the legalization of the Sortu party, and to popularize their proposal for a "pro-sovereignty" inter-party alliance, which they have invited the mainstream Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) to join. In this respect the most interesting novelty has been the response of Joseba Egibar, voice of the PNV's pro-sovereignty sector, who has said that the existence of ETA is an insurmountable obstacle to any alliance. True, this obstacle did not prevent the PNV from doing deals with the abertzale in the past, but the difference is that now the radicals threaten to usurp the PNV's traditional hegemony in this field. Significantly, Egibar focused on the existence of ETA, though it is now "on ceasefire," and on Bildu's refusal to demand its dissolution.

As long as ETA is present, though only as a latent threat, electoral contests in the Basque Country will go on being held under unequal conditions, deriving from the decades-old existence of a violent group that attacks the political enemies of radical Basque nationalism. The electoral success of the legal Bildu coalition is rightly seen as an endorsement of the abertzale left's new commitment to peaceful means. But what would happen if they obtained poor results in the next elections? Would ETA see this as a pretext for breaking the ceasefire? Does this not condition the vote? This is why it is important for the moderate nationalists to make any possible alliance with Bildu conditional upon a public call for the dissolution of ETA.

This also applies to the legalization of Sortu. With ETA in the picture, what would happen if the Constitutional Court decided to legalize Sortu? It is widely assumed that, having given the green light to Bildu, the Court will also approve Sortu this time around. But it is not certain that the arguments that served for Bildu (evidence insufficient for excluding from the elections a coalition that includes two already-legal parties) would be applicable to Sortu.

In the demonstration held on Saturday in San Sebastián in favor of Sortu's legalization, the organizers read a statement in which for the first time they "unconditionally" condemned the recent vandalization of monuments honoring victims of ETA. They then cancelled out the meaning of this gesture by exhorting the ruling Socialist (PSOE) and the Popular Party (PP) to abandon their "immobility" - that is, to yield to the demands of ETA.

But the mainstream parties have their contradictions too: absurd affronts, such as saying that Socialist electoral candidate Rubalcaba never really desired the defeat of ETA when in government. While the Basque premier Patxi López (PSOE) and the Basque PP leader Antonio Basagoiti held talks to steer their regional coalition government through the rocks of their differences on the terrorist question, the national PP spokeswoman Cospedal disingenuously attacked López for regretting only the "attitudes" of Bildu and not its legalization.

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