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Imanol Pradales. Photo: EFE / Video: EP
Elections

PNV wins Basque regional election despite strong surge by separatist left-wing party EH Bildu

Imanol Pradales ties with Arnaldo Otegi's 27 seats but won in votes as the PNV came out on top in the polls on Sunday 21 April

Lourdes Pérez

Basque Country

Monday, 22 April 2024

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Separatist left-wing party EH Bildu won 27 seats (32.5% of the votes) in the Basque Country’s regional elections on Sunday in a historic result, however it is still not enough with the PNV centre-right Basque nationalist party expected to govern again with the help of the 12 regional MPs of the Basque Socialist party.

The results from 21 April, where the left-wing coalition won six more seats than in 2020, confirms that EH Bildu - headed by Arnaldo Otegi - has emerged as a possible strong alternative to the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV). However, it is not yet the day to grant the nationalist left an historic triumph.

Imanol Pradales and his party held on long enough, despite losing four seats, to tie the coalition of Otegi and Pello Otxandiano at 27, it came down to votes, with the PNV winning more. Pradales, who celebrated his 49th birthday yesterday, will become the leader of the Basque government by joining in coalition with the Basque Socialist Party (PSE) to form an overall majority.

Electoral data will determine how much of an impact EH Bildu's lead candidate Pello Otxandiano's mishap had on election results when last week he was criticised for failing to call ETA a terrorist group in a radio interview. There was a record of almost 342,000 voting slips collected, more than in the last municipal and general elections, with EH Bildu winning six more seats than the 2020 elections with victories in Guipúzcoa and the very symbolic one in Álava.

Even though EH Bildu doesn't have enough votes to govern, Andoni Ortuzar's party now faces the prospect of a depleted leadership which has fallen from 31 to 27 seats. It may have to revive the old 'espadrille campaign' to avoid being overtaken by its rival in the nationalist family, which brought him 20,000 more votes than four years ago, just enough to win with a turnout of over 60%.

PSE-PP comparison

A negotiation with the PSE Basque Socialists is on the cards. Agreement over a new Basque regional government would have proven uncomfortable for the Socialist party of Pedro Sánchez nationally if EH Bildu had won. EH Bildu's six MPs in Madrid are needed to prop up Sánchez as prime minister.

A Bildu victory, reinforced by Sánchez's pacts, would have meant an added questioning of the prime minister's strategy, considering neither the PNV nor Bildu were going to withdraw their support pending what happens in Catalonia.

The Socialists also came out on top compared to the Partido Popular Basque party which, although it won one more seat than previously - seven in total - with almost 40,000 votes, will not grant them a majority. Vox secured its only parliamentary seat.

The big losers of the night are the divided left-wingers of the PSOE, whose fishing ground Bildu has emptied like a magnet and whose strong erosion has also favoured the PSE Basque Socialists.

Podemos, which came to take the PNV by storm in the 2015 and 2016 general elections and won six seats in 2020, remains as an extra-parliamentary party. Sumar like Vox maintained its one seat in the Vitoria chamber, with Podemos left without any.

The night ended with the expected certainty: the 52 parliamentarians of the PNV and Bildu make up a pro-nationalist majority of 72% of the chamber, a percentage that not even the Catalan pro-independence movement has been able to reach.

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