December 2, 2020

Urkullu reopens the debate by raising Basque elections in July and shakes up Galician politics

A leader of the Basque socialists confessed in private a few days ago that, by some political movements of the Iñigo Urkullu government, he sensed that the PNV wanted to celebrate the regional elections that had to be postponed as soon as possible. And indeed, the Lehendakari has reopened this Friday a debate buried by pandemic statistics now that notes a “positive trend” of data in the Basque Country.

His proposal is that the Basques go to the polls in July for a double reason, for a possible outbreak of the coronavirus in the autumn and for giving institutional stability to a community with Parliament under minimum conditions and with the need to have new budgets in line with a fall in revenue of 3 billion, exactly what the Basque Health Service (Osakidetza) costs each year. In parallel, Urkullu’s announcement has shaken the political board in Galicia, which also postponed its appointment with the ballot boxes and where this issue was latent. The Lehendakari had transferred his plans by telephone to Alberto Núñez Feijóo.

“According to the hypotheses handled by the health authorities, the risk of contagion may be at its lowest rates in the month of July. On the contrary, the beginning of autumn could coincide with a flare-up of the epidemic, and in no case will we count with a vaccine. This forecast advises studying the option of an electoral call in the month of July, “Urkullu argued in the Basque Parliament in what was his first in-person appearance before the Chamber during the health crisis, a very peculiar session of the permanent deputation with masks, disinfectant, gloves and many distances.

If the suspension of April 5 came after a meeting with all the Basque parties and by consensus, Urkullu plans to repeat the formula to resume the electoral calendar and has already summoned the political forces for April 30. If there are no adjustments, the regulations set a period of 54 days between the call and the vote. If they were summoned just raised the state of alarm in mid-May (as long as there are no extensions), the date of Sunday July 5 would force a very quick political decision. Looser would be reached on July 12 and 19. The option of July 26, in the mouth of the start of the August vacation, seems more complicated -more in Galicia, after Santiago-.

The Basque opposition, in any case, does not see it clearly. The EH Bildu diagnosis -which has convened this Monday an internal meeting of the coalition to establish a position-, Elkarrekin Podemos-IU and the PP (who will be in concert with Citizens) coincide.. They understand that there are other priorities and detect rush in Urkullu, which insists that adopting relaxation measures for the population such as allowing the ‘running’ and cycling, opening hairdressers and small shops and even theaters and other events with limited capacity. What the Lehendakari has achieved is taking the initiative after a few weeks complicated by controversy over the apparent discrepancies within the Health Department team, COVID-19 supply or test contracts or even by disagreements in the coalition with the socialists after some criticism of the management of Pedro Sánchez.

“They are not on the agenda” in Galicia

The announcement launched by Urkullu has had its immediate echo in Galician politics, where everyone assumes that the PP candidate, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, will once again take refuge in the Basque call to justify his own. Feijóo has been cautious and has avoided confirming his intention to call elections for July: “Elections are not on the agenda,” he said this Friday after the meeting of his government. The Galician opposition does not trust and has come out in a rush to preemptively denounce any temptation to accelerate the electoral electoral de-escalation ’with a call for the month of July. The candidates of PSOE, BNG and Galicia en Común have been accusing the Galician president for weeks of using the COVID-19 crisis to improve his starting position in the face of elections that the pandemic has suspended.


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