Juan Jose Ibarretxe is to remain at the helm of the Basque regional government in Spain – but only thanks to the backing of a radical separatist party. Some of its members voted in his favour after his own moderate nationalist coalition failed to win a majority in recent elections.
The long-time leader’s triumph prompted celebrations in the provincial parliament but some are anxious about his separatist supporters. The Communist Party of the Basque Country (EHAK) has, after all, received the blessing of Batasuna, which is banned as the political wing of armed militants ETA.
Ibarretxe has been pushing a plan for greater autonomy for the Basque region that would give it near independence from Spain.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is firmly against the proposals which were defeated by the national parliament in Madrid.
The Socialist premier had rejected calls to prevent EHAK from standing in April’s elections, something that earned him criticism from the conservative opposition. “The reality is that the terrorists’ friends, whose entry into parliament he made easier, elected the Basque prime minister,” said Eduardo Zaplana, spokesman of the Popular Party. “We can now expect a legislature that is a lot more complicated.” Today’s events unfolded as a separate controversy grips the Basque country and the whole of Spain.
It is centred on the government’s conditional offer to hold peace talks with ETA, provided it lays down its arms.