Basque parliament votes new leader

For the first time in Basque parliamentary history, a woman has been chosen by members of the regional parliament to preside over parliamentary sessions during the next four years. Her name is Izaskun Bilbao and she is a member of the PNV nationalist party.

According to constitutional law in Spain, the first step towards forming a new government after elections have been held is the election of the parliamentary chairperson, equivalent to Leader of the House. Once the leader has been chosen, then members can get round to voting for a president of government.

Last week the new Basque parliament met on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday and voted no less than nine times, but on each occasion the candidates of the two main parties, PNV and the Basque Socialist Party, PSV, drew the same number of votes. This was because the Basque Communist Party, EHAK, (supported from the sidelines by ETA’s illegalised political faction) refused to support the PNV unless the party changed its candidate, Jose Maria Atuxta, who led the house during the previous government.

At first the PNV refused to budge, but when the abstention strategy of the Basque communists looked likely to force yet another tie this morning, Atuxta stepped down in favour of Izaskun Bilbao, one of his closest collaborators, who was promptly voted in with a comfortable majority thanks to the votes of the 9 members of EHAK.

This latest event illustrates just how precarious the new Basque government may prove to be as it will have to resort to all kinds of pacts and agreements in order to push policies through. It is also a worrying indication of the extent to which the influence of ETA’s political wing has increased, albeit indirectly, since the recent Basque regional elections.