Could Catalonia's vote boost Basque independence?
Sunday's regional elections in Catalonia threw new obstacles into its path for independence from Spain. The independence-minded Basque Country hopes to adopt Catalonia's lessons.
The results of Sunday's local elections in Catalonia will likely have most immediate impact in the independence-minded region and in the halls of Madrid's central government. But their effects within other Spanish communities that harbor hopes for independence may prove just as profound.
Particularly in the Basque Country, where a 2008 push for a national referendum on the region's political status was declared unconstitutional by Spain's highest court, and where October elections similarly saw voters hand a strong mandate to the region's two separatist parties, many were looking to Catalonia for a tell on how next to proceed.
“For Basques it is very important what the Catalans are doing – in Catalonia a majority is wanting to take steps towards independence,” says Pello Urizar, a Basque parliament member from EH Bildu, the conglomeration of left-leaning Basque separatist parties that last month won the second-highest number of seats in the regional parliament. “We don't yet have as clear of a consensus.”
Catalan voters delivered a mixed message on Sunday night, dealing a heavy blow to Artur Mas, leader of Catalonia's ruling center-right nationalist party CiU, who had hoped for an absolute majority – which would be a strong mandate for a referendum on Catalonian independence. But while the results still clearly supported the collection of political groups pushing for national independence from Spain, the CiU underperformed as its pro-austerity economic policies undercut its pro-independence efforts.