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The tense backdrop of Basque election

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The tense backdrop of Basque election

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Absent from the ballot papers, the radical face of Basque separatism resorts to more spectacular means to make its presence felt.

A car-bomb attack on the offices of a regional public television station, EiTB, in Bilbao in December, left no-one dead or injured, but ETA had made its point. The blast outraged not just the rest of Spain, but also moderate Basque separatists like the nationalist regional president Juan Jose Ibarrexte. “They have the nerve to say that killing the sons of the Basque people, putting bombs in the EiTB television centre, is done to create a Basque people,” he said. “What a strange way of building something, by killing children and destroying buildings.” For the first time, radical separatist parties – those who do not explicitly condemn ETA’s tactics – are banned from these elections. That is the case for Askatasuna and Democracy 3 Million. They are considered to be laundered versions of Batasuna, the political wing of the armed group ETA, which was outlawed in 2003. The party that represented Batasuna at the last elections four years ago won 12.5 percent of the vote. Just before Spanish super-judge Baltasar Garzon handed down the banning order against Askatasuna and Democracy 3 Million, police arrested several of their members. There followed a series of violent acts, from small-scale bombings to urban vandalism. The political offices of moderate nationalist and socialist parties were among the targets. More than 150,000 people voted for the thinly-veiled radical party four years ago but this time there is no such party on the list. Radical separatist leaders have urged their supporters to get out and vote anyway, to make themselves heard by spoiling their ballot.