Regional nationalisms stumbling block for PP, PSOE

PNV-EAJ leader Aitor Esteban during 31 August investiture debate. Photo: Mariscal/EFE via El Periódico
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• Basque leader Aitor Esteban says investiture deal with PP’s Rajoy ‘impossible’
• Homs says PDC would support Sánchez if PSOE agrees to Catalan referendum

Ideological differences and strategic political considerations aside, the current debate in Congress over the candidacy of conservative Partido Popular (PP) chief and acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to lead the next government has made clear that the real ‘gordian knot’ blocking Rajoy’s bid remains the perennially thorny question of Spain’s regional nationalisms, particularly in Catalonia and the Basque Country.

In his initial investiture speech on Tuesday, Rajoy played to his own party’s centralist, Spanish nationalist bases with a reference to Spain’s old Constitution of 1812, but in so doing infuriated the leadership of the centre-right Partido Nacionalista Vasco (Basque Nationalist Party, or PNV), an erstwhile ally of the PP whose support could ben enough push Rajoy over the top in his investiture bid. The Basques bear a 200-year-old grudge over what is seen as a raw deal given their homeland in the 19th century under the 1812 constitution and Rajoy’s reference was enough to prompt PNV-EAJ leader Aitor Esteban to state unequivocally that any deal with Rajoy would be “impossible” (see video, below) until the PP slackens its centralist rhetoric.

Centre-right nationalist parties like the (PNV) and Catalonia’s Partit Demòcrata Català (Catalan Democratic Party, or PDC) have traditionally provided the swing votes that enable the election of a PP or Socialist party (PSOE) candidate as prime minister. Both the PNV’s Esteban and the PDC’s Francesc Homs (see video, below) have offered support to an alternative bid to govern by Socialist party leader Pedro Sánchez, were the PSOE to agree to grant greater autonomy to the Basques or allow Catalans to hold an independence referendum.

But, Sanchez is similarly bound by his own party’s constraints against dealing with the regional nationalist parties, specifically by regional PSOE leaders in central and southern Spain who are opposed to providing more fiscal autonomy to the Basques or Catalans that could siphon off federal funds from their regions in the annual reversion of tax revenues to the autonomous communities and regions from the federal government. Sánchez has said that only with reform of Spain’s current Constitution of 1978 could the PSOE consider any referendum for Catalonia, a pledge that proved insufficient to garner Catalan support in the PSOE leader’s failed bid in March to put together his own governing coalition.



► Read More in Spanish at La Vanguardia, 20Minutos and El Periódico …

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