Spain’s Basque Country regional vote yields likely repeat of incumbent coalition

By Thomson Reuters Apr 21, 2024 | 5:47 PM

By Ana Cantero

MADRID (Reuters) – The coalition ruling Spain’s Basque Country looked set to stay in power as the conservative nationalists tied with their left-wing separatist rivals in Sunday’s regional election but will likely keep the support of the third-placed Socialists.

The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and EH Bildu (“Basque Country Unite”) both earned 27 seats, falling well short of the 38 needed for a majority in the regional parliament. But the PNV garnered nearly 30,000 more votes than Bildu, which gained six seats from the previous election in 2020.

“The diversity of our people has been reflected today in the ballot box and that reality must be respected,” the PNV’s main candidate, Imanol Pradales, told ecstatic supporters after the count.

The Socialist Party, which has been the PNV’s junior coalition partner since 2016, emerged as kingmaker with 12 seats.

The vote was seen as key for its potential national implications, as Spain’s shaky government led by Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez needs the support of both Basque parties – as well as Catalan separatists – in a highly fragmented parliament.

Critics have repeatedly denounced Sanchez’s agreements with separatist parties. During the Basque campaign, the Socialists distanced themselves from Bildu, signaling they were more inclined to support the PNV.

Founded in 2012 as a coalition of left-wing parties, Bildu has faced criticism for its alleged proximity to the now-defunct armed group ETA. Bildu has publicly rejected violence but its candidate Pello Otxandiano avoided condemning the group.

Left-wing party Sumar, which is part of the national government coalition, entered the Basque parliament for the first time with one seat. The conservative People’s Party obtained seven seats and far-right Vox got one.

The Basque Country has one of the highest regional GDPs per capita in Europe. Since ETA announced its total dissolution in 2018, there have been no secession attempts.

(Reporting by Ana Cantero; Additional reporting by David Latona; Editing by Diane Craft)