The signing of the Lizarra agreement or Estella pact, 25 years ago this week, consolidated the projection of a new leadership in the Abertzale left, that of Arnaldo Otegi, whose validity a quarter of a century later now subject to debate. Sortu, the heir party of the old Batasuna, and EH Bildu, with the strategic bet in the form of a broad front, value the possibilities of appearing in the spring Basque elections with the Abertzale leader as a candidate. The limitations of the bet are obvious, with a known electoral ceiling and the lingering violence very present; however, the weight of the old Abertzale guard and the leader himself can tip the balance over other options that are already being expressed among the militancy.
Bildu's decision on who will aspire to fill Ajuria Enea is the great unknown that still needs to be clarified in the short term of Basque politics, given that the ranks of the PNB practically take it for granted that Iñigo Urkullu will repeat as a candidate. The decision is not futile, since one option or another will mark the electoral possibilities of the Abertzale coalition, the rate at which full democratic validation will be consolidated for other parties and, although indirectly, the party's relations with an eventual coalition government
The debate about the candidate takes place discreetly on Bildu. It is a question in which, beyond the electoral calculation, variables such as self-perception, the desire for self-affirmation of some sectors and the maxim of maintaining internal cohesion come into play. One of the keys to the debate has to do with the gulf that exists between how Otegi is seen in the strictest sphere of the Abertzale left and how he is perceived beyond, even among potential voters that the coalition aspires to attract.
It is the disparity between those who see Otegi as the historical leader who led perestroika in the liberal world and those who, at the opposite pole, see a politician with the weight of violence, or because of his militancy in ETA, between the end of the seventies and mid-eighties, or because of the role it had after the breakdown of the truce tied to Lizarra/Garazi, which contemporaneously attacked during particularly hard years. An aspect that is difficult to change even for those who recognize their role in the search for ways that lead to the end of violence.
Some voices in Bildu, even in Sortu, consider that the remora is too heavy for the electoral expectations of the Abertzale coalition. They understand that with this bet they will not be able to attract voters who did reach the municipal elections or even the general elections, precisely with candidates of a transversal profile. They plan, directly, to turn over Otegi, 65 years old, or reserve him for the internal coordination of the coalition, and take the confrontation with the PNB to a terrain that could make the Jeltzales uncomfortable and in which the variable of terrorism dilute They also point out that another candidate would facilitate post-electoral pacts.
From here, among these voices there are those who are in favor of going the full way towards transversality and those who propose an intermediate option. Among the latter, there is the name of Mertxe Aizpurua, a friendlier option than that of Otegi and which, according to an authorized source, has been ringing among the militancy for months. The other option, the one that prioritizes expanding Bildu's political space, proposes doing exactly the same as the Abertzale coalition did in the municipal elections, with the mayors in Bilbao, Vitoria or Pamplona; regarding the bid for the Gipuzkoa Province, with Maddalen Iriarte, candidate for lehendakari in 2020; or in the general elections, in which Oskar Matute focused his campaign. Among those who defend this path, the bet for Rocío Vitero, the candidate who allowed them to win in Vitoria, despite not governing, is recurrent.
Faced with these positions, in the bid for Otegi there is a desire for reaffirmation defended by a large part of the old guard of Sortu. They consider that, once his disqualification is over, he deserves to close the circle and stand for election, as long as the bases ratify him, and they relativize the importance of seeking to overtake the PNB this spring. They even point out that the the target must be the 2028 elections and, until then, they prioritize sustained and cohesive growth.
This mid-term reading, although surprising, was felt on a recurring basis until a few months ago. However, the recent elections have placed Bildu in a position that has exceeded their expectations, where they are facing a GNP that they found to be weaker than they expected. The Abertzale left has seen itself, earlier than expected, in the situation of choosing between Otegi, the bridge with the past, and a definitive bet, perhaps winning, to close the possibilist turn.