The 10 Basque towns where the municipal ones are played

The Basque citizens will elect this Sunday the municipal representation of their city councils and their General Meetings, territorial parliaments from which the respective regional governments will emerge.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
26 May 2023 Friday 10:22
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The 10 Basque towns where the municipal ones are played

The Basque citizens will elect this Sunday the municipal representation of their city councils and their General Meetings, territorial parliaments from which the respective regional governments will emerge. A tight struggle is expected between the PNV and EH Bildu, although with the PSE in the role of referee and with the expectation of maintaining power in their great fiefdoms.

The Basque parties will logically look at the results in the capitals and in the General Meetings on Sunday, although Basque politics, the struggle between the parties, is also played out in other municipalities of strategic, populational or symbolic importance.

The electoral results in Vitoria-Gasteiz will set the mood on election night, with up to three parties with options to reach the mayoralty: the PNV, EH Bildu and, to a lesser extent, the PSE. The jeltzales are, according to the surveys, the great favorites and, if they win in the capital of Alava, it is very likely that they will do full in the capitals of the Autonomous Community of Euskadi. The Abertzale coalition, for its part, has this town hall between its eyebrows, without forgetting its aspirations to assault the Provincial Council of Gipuzkoa and the Pamplona City Council, and they are eager to test their municipal model there. The PSE, finally, also has options and already surprised four years ago by rising as the second force above the polls. It is the great option of the Basque socialists to return to govern a Basque capital a decade later.

The PP, which came to govern the administrative capital of the community for three legislatures, appears in all polls as the fourth political force.

In any case, what is certain is that Vitoria-Gasteiz will have a female mayor for the first time: Beatriz Artolazabal (PNV), Rocío Vitero (EH Bildu), Maider Etxebarria (PSOE) or Ainhoa ​​Domaica (PP).

The latest installment of the EiTB Focus macro-poll gives the PNV an advantage of just one point over EH Bildu, so the jeltzales are looking for the useful vote of socialists and popular to settle the balance.

In the Gipuzkoan capital, the PNV candidate and current mayor, Eneko Goia, starts as a favorite and, according to polls, has many options to access his third legislature in office. This circumstance was practically taken for granted a few weeks ago, until several surveys have shown a notable growth of EH Bildu, more pronounced than expected.

The high cost of housing in the city and the tremendous tourist boom that it has experienced in recent years have generated discontent from which Juan Karlos Izagirre, EH Bildu candidate and mayor between 2011 and 2015, could benefit. Several surveys have placed him above ahead in direct vote, although it is not the first time that the Abertzale coalition appears ahead in this variable and, later, at the time of the appointment with the polls, it loses steam.

The interest of the municipal ones in Bilbao does not have to do with the competition between two parties, but with the possibility that the PNV achieves an absolute majority or not. The jeltzals have ruled Bilbao since the restoration of democratic institutions. In 2011, led by the late Iñaki Azkuna, they achieved an absolute majority and, four years ago, in 2019, the current mayor, Juan Mari Aburto, was one councilor away from achieving it (14 of 29).

Regardless of the results that the PNV can achieve, it is probable that EH Bildu can surpass the PSE as second force, although very far from the PNV. The PP, with Isabel Díaz Ayuso closing the list, and Podemos will compete for the fourth position.

Among the four large municipalities on the Left Bank of the Bilbao estuary -Barakaldo (100,000), Santurtzi (46,000), Portugalete (45,000) and Sestao (28,000)-, Portugalete is the only one that remains a socialist stronghold. The PNV has become strong in the rest of the municipalities in this industrial zone and the polls show that it has a good chance of maintaining power, which is why Portugalete is of fundamental importance for the Basque socialists.

The Left Bank has historically been its great stronghold in the Basque Country, although the truth is that the party has held up better in the municipalities of Gipuzkoa where it has historically been strong: it continues to govern Irun, Eibar, Lasarte, Zumarraga or Pasaia. The Basque Socialists cannot afford to lose Portugalete, together with Ermua, the only relevant locality that they govern in Bizkaia, so that the municipal elections in this locality become important.

Although in the last decade it has governed San Sebastián (2011-2015) or Pamplona (2015-2019), the most populous municipality that EH Bildu has governed in the last four years has been Durango, thanks to its understanding with Podemos. It is a town that borders on 30,000 residents, but whose area of ​​influence is close to 100,000 inhabitants, and is located in Bizkaia, the great fishing ground for PNV votes.

For the Abertzale coalition, it is crucial to maintain power in this municipality of symbolic importance and with a strategic position in the Basque socioeconomic sphere. EH Bildu needs to grow in Bizkaia, the most populated territory, if it wants to challenge the PNV for hegemony, and for this it must consolidate in towns such as Durango or Galdakao, a municipality with a similar population in which it also governs, as well as grow in the Greater Bilbao, its great electoral hole between the metropolitan environments of Euskadi and Navarra.

A close battle is expected that will opt for a handful of votes: in 2019 EH Bildu won by just 450.

It is the emblematic capital of the Basque self-government and a symbol of freedom and peace. It has 17,000 inhabitants, but great symbolic importance. In the last four legislatures the same person has governed: José María Gorroño Etxebarrieta. However, it has happened that it has done so with the initials of Eusko Alkartasuna (2007-2011), EH Bildu (2011-2015) and the PNV (2015-2023), although in the latter case thanks to an agreement of a municipal nature that linked a formation created by himself with the jeltzale formation. This Sunday he leads a municipal candidacy called Guztiontzako herria (The people for all).

His rivals at the polls will be EH Bildu and the PNV, temporary partners in the last 16 years with whom he has had a strained relationship. The PNV attaches great importance to keeping this place under its acronym, although EH Bildu has options to be the first force.

In the capital of Basque cooperativism, Eusko Alkartasuna, the nationalist left, the PNV and the PSE have historically been strong. In recent years the electoral map of this contrasting municipality has been simplified, and the mayoral race on Sunday will be a matter of two: the PNV and EH Bildu, although the PSE may have the key. The Socialists facilitated the investiture of the jeltzale María Ubarretxena four years ago, who is repeating as a candidate.

Arrasate/Mondragón has a population of 22,000 inhabitants, but it is the head of the Alto Deba region, an area of ​​around 63,000 inhabitants; the area of ​​influence exceeds 100,000 inhabitants if the entire Deba river basin is taken into account. It is the headquarters of the Mondragón Corporation and the heart of the powerful Basque cooperative movement.

Tolosa was the capital of Gipuzkoa for a decade in the middle of the last 19th century and it is important for the Basque parties, as it is one of the reference towns in the economically thriving interior of Gipuzkoa. In the 2019 elections, the PNV prevailed over EH Bildu by a narrow margin of votes; they tied councilors and the only socialist mayor of the consistory ended up tipping the scales.

The EiTB Focus macro survey reflects a clear victory for EH Bildu in this municipality (9 seats for the coalition against 7 for the PNV and 1 for the PSE).

The town of Irun is currently the most important city that the PSE governs in Euskadi (62,000 inhabitants), and revalidating the mayoralty in the municipality is vital for the Basque socialists. This municipality is the fiefdom of José Antonio Santano, mayor since 2002, who has managed to get along with the first mayors of Hondarribia and, on the other side of the border, Hendaia, to relaunch the strategic importance of the border municipality.

In this town, the PNV-PSE agreement that operates in many Basque towns has not worked, so Santano has occasionally relied on EH Bildu.

The EiTB Focus macro survey predicts that the PSE can maintain this mayoralty, although it would drop in the face of a slight rise in the PNV and, especially, in EH Bildu.

Although from a functional point of view Llodio is linked to the Bilbao metropolitan area, this municipality is located in Álava and is the second largest town in the territory after Vitoria-Gasteiz. The rivalry between the PNV and EH Bildu in this municipality is extremely close. Historically, the PNV and the different brands of the nationalist left have alternated. Since 1979 it has had five PNV mayors, among them the ex-lehendakari Juan José Ibarretxe, and four linked to the nationalist left. Once again, a tight battle between the two formations is expected.