Feijóo tries to reconnect with the PNV to get the PP out of its isolation with Vox

Alberto Núñez Feijóo put himself at the head of the PP five months ago with the mission of leaving no trace of the failed stage of Pablo Casado as leader of the popular. The former president of the Xunta landed on Génova street wrapped in a halo of political moderation and sense of state that, for the moment, has not crystallized in any capacity in agreement with the Government or for the renewal of constitutional bodies such as the CGPJ or to carry out shock measures against the economic consequences of war.

In reality, the so-called “Feijóo effect” has more to do with the challenge of turning the PP back into a political machine capable of competing for victory in general elections and, above all, of governing again. Quite the opposite of what the majority of popular cadres perceived under Casado's leadership. In this set-up, the Galician politician begins to touch, in a more or less veiled way, keys that were anathema not long ago, such as the detente with the PNV, a party with a long tradition of pacts with the popular in Congress and with which they blew up the bridges in the motion of censure that ended with Mariano Rajoy outside Moncloa.

"On many issues it is easier to talk with the PNV and Iñigo Urkullu than with Vox," Feijóo said in a recent interview granted to El País. The phrase transcends the mere wink at the Basque nationalists and opposes that outstretched hand to an attempt to distance, at least dialectically, with the extreme right, to date a strategic ally of the popular in governments such as those of Castilla y León, Murcia or the Madrid's community. The conclusion in the new direction of the popular is that this alliance only means weight in Feijóo's wings on his way to Moncloa because, in practice, it isolates the PP from any possibility in agreement with other political forces. Or what is the same: the closer the PP is to Vox, the more armored parliamentary alliances for Pedro Sánchez.

After years of absolute isolation, the new leader of the popular seems determined to rebuild bridges. As Galician president, he already had a fluid relationship with his Basque counterpart, Lehendakari Urkullu, with whom he came to share a political cause in Brussels in defense of the shipyards in the Basque Country and Galicia. Feijóo also had a brief conversation this summer with Andoni Ortuzar, president of the PNV, during the tribute held to Miguel Ángel Blanco in Ermua (Bizkaia). And from there came an appointment for the two to meet alone just after the summer.

It will be the first time that Feijóo and Ortuzar sit face to face and that will already mean a qualitative change compared to the Casado era, which never held a meeting of this type. In fact, the stage of the former leader of the PP only served to deepen the gap between the two conservative formations with a constant exchange of accusations and reproaches. "The PNV is not center-right because it is supporting the most radical government," Casado criticized during a campaign event in the last Basque elections. The former head of the popular party never lavished gestures of affection towards a traditional ally such as the PNV, and came to regret that "more than 70% of the parliamentary arch" in the Basque Country is occupied by PNV and Bildu, two parties that, in his opinion, "either they ask for prison benefits, turn the page with ETA or they don't condemn 850 crimes".

His political line marked by competition with Vox also led Casado to promise limitations on the self-government of the Basque Country, such as the withdrawal of powers in prison matters. Andoni Ortuzar responded to that by calling some statements "bravado" that, in his opinion, "bring the PP closer to Orban's extreme right." A flawed political environment between the two formations that even led the president of the PNV to predict that there would be a Sánchez government "for a long time."

In reality, everything was blown up with the motion of censure that evicted Mariano Rajoy from Moncloa in June 2018 after the PP was convicted in the Gürtel case. Just a few weeks before that court ruling, the Popular Party had managed to carry out the General State Budgets, thanks to the PNV, which were called upon to guarantee the stability of the rest of the legislature.. But that stability lasted only days because the Basque nationalists ended up giving their support to the motion that would end up making Pedro Sánchez President of the Government. "A betrayal" in terms of the then leadership of the PP that not only took away the close personal relationship between Andoni Ortuzar and Mariano Rajoy, but also any hint of political collaboration in the medium term between the two formations.

Before, also punctuated by periods of confrontation and distance, this relationship between the PP and the PNV was never a rarity, neither in Rajoy's time nor during the presidency of José María Aznar, who managed to be inaugurated in 1996 thanks to the support of Jordi Pujol's CiU and Xabier Arzalluz's PNV. Those were years of strategic alliance between the PP and the Basque and Catalan nationalists, who paid Aznar with parliamentary stability for the large doses of self-government that they were conquering during his mandate. In the Basque case, specifically, Vice President Rodrigo Rato agreed in 1997 with Vice Lehendakari, Juan José Ibarretxe, greater fiscal autonomy for Euskadi, signing the economic agreement and the quota for the five-year period 1997-2001.

Now, Alberto Núñez Feijóo's roadmap seems to be heading towards a return to that capacity for understanding. Since assuming the leadership of the opposition, the PP has agreed to sign its first government coalition with Vox in Castilla y León and has avoided that scenario in Andalusia thanks to the absolute majority of Juanma Moreno, a scenario today unthinkable for the popular ones in a general election.

Eager to find formulas that will distance him from isolation with the extreme right, that will allow him to establish alternative alliances to those of Abascal's party and that, incidentally, reduce support for the PSOE, Feijóo is now embarking on the path of rapprochement with the PNV, each time more critical of the Sánchez government for its "lack of dialogue" when undertaking measures such as the energy decree, which require broad parliamentary support from the investiture partners.

For the moment, the Basque nationalists are cautious and insist that the PNV "will have nothing to do with the PP" as long as those of Feijóo "remain attached to the extreme right". Although it is no secret that the Basque nationalists are the first interested in having all possible avenues of agreement open in Madrid Just before the explosion of the PP in the air that ended with the expulsion of Casado from Genoa 13, Andoni Ortuzar himself stated: “I hope that Feijóo or whoever recomposes the PP well, we need it to be strong”. When you return from vacation you will have the opportunity to tell him directly.

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