Basque party Bildu illegalised in Spanish election

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The abertzale (left wing Basque nationalist) coalition Bildu (Gathering) was ruled illegal by the Spanish Supreme Court yesterday.  Bildu was formed from a grouping of left wing pro-independence Basque parties in order to contest the forthcoming Spanish municipal elections due on May 22.  The coalition attracted strong criticism from Spain’s ‘unionist’ parties who claimed that Bildu was simply the continuation of the Batasuna (Unity) party.

Batasuna was a Basque political party which the Spanish Supreme Court illegalised in 2003, judging it to be a front organisation for ETA, which sees itself as being in an ‘armed struggle’ with the Spanish state and which is listed as a terrorist organisation.  Since 1968 ETA has been blamed for the violent deaths of over 800 individuals as well as kidnappings and extorsion.

Bildu was formed earlier this year by three groups on the Basque left, the parties Eusko Alkartasuna (Basque Solidarity), Alternatiba (the Alternative) and independents aligned in a loose coalition called Sortu (Create).  At a press conference on February 8 this year, Sortu stated that as a group they were committed to Basque independence “within a European Union framework, via exclusively peaceful and political channels.”  The group explicitly rejected all violence “categorically and without hesitation … including that of ETA.”

However the Partido Socialista Obrero Español (Spanish Socialist Workers Party, PSOE), the party of the Spanish government in Madrid, and the main Spanish opposition party the centre-right Partido Popular (Popular Party, PP) claimed that former members and activists of Batasuna were behind the formation of Sortu, and initiated legal action against the group.  Official complaints were made to the Spanish legal authorities on February 9.  

Officials from the Spanish government’s legal and finance offices presented a case to the Supreme Court in Madrid alleging links between Sortu and Batasuna and ETA.  On March 23 the Supreme Court ruled that Sortu would not be able to register as a political party with the Spanish Ministry of the Interior.

As members of Sortu were part of the independent grouping which formed one of the three components of Bildu, the PSOE and PP claimed that Bildu could no longer be a legal party for the forthcoming elections.  The chief law officer for the Spanish government initiated proceedings against the coalition.  The case was heard at a special sitting of the Supreme Court yesterday (Sunday 1 May).  The court accepted the arguments of the Spanish government and the PP and ruled that the coalition of Eusko Alkartasuna, Alternatiba and independents of the abertzale left was “ETA’s plan B” and that it was an “instrument” of the terrorist organisation and Batasuna besides being a “continuation” of previous political groupings declared illegal seven years ago.

Last night the spokesperson for Alternatiba, Óscar Matute, refused to comment on the decision of the Supreme Court prohibiting Bildu from standing at the elections on 22 May, stating that he had no wish to take part in “the media circus which the Spanish have created.”

Matute announced that BIldu will hold a press conference today (Monday) in Bilbao in order to give the official response of Bildu to the Supreme Court decision.  The coalition has 48 hours within which to make a final appeal to the Supreme Court.  The case must be heard before campaigning for the municipal elections formally begins on Friday.