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Navarre in a pickle

The Socialists cannot succeed in ousting the premier without the support of a radical Basque party

A crisis is developing in the regional government of Navarre, presided by Yolanda Barcina of the conservative Navarrese People’s Union (UPN), with a commission of investigation into the conduct of the regional vice-premier Lourdes Goicoechea, concerning the accusation leveled by the ex-director of the regional revenue agency, Idoia Nieves, of the former having interfered in her tax-collecting work, in the interests of clients of the consulting agency she owns.

An investigation commission is not a court of law. It does not determine criminal guilt, only political responsibilities. The commission ought to serve to oblige the vice-premier to offer explanations, and to judge whether premier Barcina’s involvement, if any, is enough to justify calls for her resignation — or, alternatively, the parliamentary no-confidence motion which, if it succeeds, will lead to the formation of a new regional government. The leader of that hypothetical alternative administration would be Roberto Jiménez, of the Socialist Party of Navarre (PSN), who has promised to call early elections coinciding with those to the European Parliament in May.

The first obstacle stems from the Spain-wide mother party of the PSN, the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE). Its leadership is opposed to the idea of the Navarre Socialists cutting a deal of any sort with the abertzale (radical Basque separatist) party Bildu — whose parliamentary votes would however be needed for the motion to pass.

The crisis has much to do with political fragmentation in Navarre. Until 2003, the center-right (UPN) received an average of 45 percent of the vote; the left (PSN+United Left), some 30 percent; and the Basque nationalists, 22 percent. Now, however, this last grouping has risen to 29 percent, while the left has sunk to 22. All this, with the particularity that, unlike the situation in the neighboring Basque Country, in Navarre the abertzale left is dominant in the Basque-nationalist political sphere.

The crisis has a lot to do with political fragmentation in Navarre

This is why the demand that Navarre be incorporated into Euskadi (a possibility allowed for in the Constitution, but opposed by parties (UPN, PSN, IU) that represent between 65 and 75 percent of the Navarrese electorate) has, in this territory, been closely associated with the aspiration to Basque independence.

The upsurge of the abertzale left in the last elections makes it (after the unification of Bildu and Aralar) the first-ranking party of the opposition. If the Socialists do not receive the parliamentary votes of Bildu, the no-confidence motion will fail; but if they do, they will lose support among the wider electorate to their principal rival, the UPN. These factors condition the voting-alliance policy of a PSOE which, after the exasperating experience of leading a three-party government in Catalonia, is shy of cutting deals with explicitly secessionist regional parties.

It is true that Bildu cannot constitute an excuse for permitting corruption. But nor is it acceptable to conclude that the objective of removing Barcina from office is enough to justify forming lasting parliamentary alliances with Bildu — as if this party, which inherits the radical separatist sentiment of Batasuna (outlawed for its support of terrorism), were just another democratic political party.

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