The Basque elections in 8 keys: from the 24 hours that activated the voting campaign in Greater Bilbao

Beyond the big headlines, the very close election day in Euskadi leaves a lot of small print.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
21 April 2024 Sunday 16:33
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The Basque elections in 8 keys: from the 24 hours that activated the voting campaign in Greater Bilbao

Beyond the big headlines, the very close election day in Euskadi leaves a lot of small print. The decisive week ended up being decisive, after 24 hours that triggered the electoral drive, and the Basque map shows the extent to which some trends that had been emerging in recent years have been consolidated. The PNV forged its victory by votes in Bizkaia, the territory where it was born 129 years ago, and particularly in the conurbation of Bilbao, while EH Bildu achieved a uniform increase - also in the Biscay territory - that had an important translation to seats in Gipuzkoa and Álava, the territory that has changed the most politically in recent decades.

The big question during the last days of the campaign was to what extent what happened during the decisive week had been able to modify electoral behavior. Until last Monday, the 15th, the diagnosis was clear. The campaign had gone relatively unnoticed in its first 10 days, very focused on issues such as the situation of public services or housing prices, and the surveys published between the 10th and 15th - the last day within the legal period - gave a slight advantage to EH Bildu. The Abertzale coalition maintained a highly mobilized electorate, with loyalty close to 90%, and PNV voters seemed to be demobilized, with loyalty data around 65%.

In just 24 hours everything changed. On Monday night, Pello Otxandiano offered an interview to Cadena Ser in which he repeatedly avoided talking about ETA as a “terrorist organization.” The next morning, the PSE candidate, Eneko Andueza, harshly attacked the nationalist candidate, and the campaign came to a boil.

That Tuesday night, the second debate on ETB, Basque public television, was to be held, and just two hours before the PNV candidate, Imanol Pradales, was attacked with pepper spray by an individual with numerous criminal records, although without political ties.

The campaign threatened to break down. Pradales participated in the debate, very conditioned in his left eye, while all the focus was on the issue of the condemnation of ETA, which in the end did not even appear. The PNV hoped that it would be Andueza who would introduce it. But the Basque socialists avoided the issue, in order to avoid a possible boomerang effect due to EH Bildu's pacts with Pedro Sánchez in Madrid.

In any case, the campaign was activated and in the following days the issue of a critical review of terrorism was consolidated on the Basque agenda. EH Bildu no longer controlled the campaign, which began to take a long time, and the PNV already appreciated an electoral tension that could be mobilizing, also favored by the latest polls that had placed the nationalist coalition in the lead.

The 2020 Basque elections were totally conditioned by the pandemic, with participation that barely exceeded 50%, so the comparison in terms of the number of votes can be misleading. In fact, all parties, except Podemos, increased in votes compared to those elections: 20,500 in the case of the PNV; 92,000 EH Bildu; 27,000 the PSE; 36,500 for the PP... In percentage of the vote, however, EH Bildu rose almost 5 points (to 32.48%), the PNV fell almost 4 (to 35.22%), the PSE grew just half a point (achieved a 14.22%) and the PP improved 2.5 points (9.23%).

Compared to the 2016 Basque elections, the PNV lost 28,000 supports; EH Bildu grew by 116,000 votes; the PSE improved by 23,000 votes; and the PP lost 10,000 supports. Podemos, finally, surpassed 157,000 votes in 2016, while yesterday it stood at 23,700 (Sumar obtained another 35,000).

In this way, EH Bildu consolidates itself as the clearly ascending force, which brings together votes from the confederal left, although it also receives transfers from the PNV and a significant percentage of new votes, according to the latest CIS.

The territorial factor is very relevant in these elections. If Álava is key in the distribution of seats, taking into account the result in votes and this victory in support for the PNV, the conurbation of Bilbao is very relevant. The metropolitan area of ​​Bilbao, Greater Bilbao, brings together around 900,000 inhabitants and a census that exceeds 40% of the population of the Autonomous Community of Euskadi.

There the PNV forged its victory with votes. The jeltzales withstood the push of EH Bildu, which is also clearly growing in this area, and prevailed in almost all the important municipalities.

Greater Bilbao, likewise, shows how the growing bipartisan tendency of Basque politics conditions trends. In July of last year, in the general elections, the PSE won in many municipalities in this area, while now it has been the third force in the majority. If EH Bildu brings together the vote for change, the PNV concentrates a good part of the support of that part of the citizens that does not want a change in a nationalist key. Greater Bilbao is the epicenter of the dual vote, and all you have to do is compare the map left by yesterday's elections with that of the general elections.

The historic territory of Álava, with barely 334,000 inhabitants, distributes the same seats as Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, 25, so it is key in the distribution of parliamentarians.

EH Bildu is consolidating itself as the leading force in this territory, approaching 30% of the vote, and reflects an evident social change, unsuspected two decades ago, when the nationalist left was the fourth force and Eusko Alkartasuna had a very limited presence.

The PNV, in any case, held up better than expected in this territory, where it had been fourth in the general elections last summer, and was only one seat behind the nationalist coalition, attracting votes that in those elections had gone to other countries. formations.

The Basque socialists made the most of their results yesterday and with an increase of just half a point compared to 2020, they obtained two more seats. These two representatives, key to achieving an absolute majority with the PNV, were also two of the last three seats distributed, although they are consolidated. Sumar would need 738 more supports than the socialists in the final count to snatch a seat from them in Bizkaia and EH Bildu would need 1,360 more. There will be no surprises on Friday

The PP managed to improve its 2020 results, but was below its results in 2016. Javier de Andrés, former deputy general of Álava, did not meet its expectations in this territory and the PNV was able to take advantage of the vote of rejection of EH Bildu.

The Popular Party aspired to grow in seats, something they achieved (they obtained 7, one more than they achieved in coalition with Ciudadanos four years ago), but they did not achieve their great objective of regaining relevance in Basque politics, something they would have achieved if that PNV and PSE had not obtained a majority.

EH Bildu boasts of its territorial implementation and, in reality, it has reasons to do so. The Abertzale coalition grew uniformly and reinforced its hegemony in Gipuzkoa (it exceeds 40% of the vote), while consolidating its first position in Álava, also winning in Vitoria-Gasteiz.

In Bizkaia, they prevailed in the eastern area and were the second force in Greater Bilbao, the bastion that gave victory in votes to EH Bildu. Two-thirds of the map of the Autonomous Community of Euskadi appeared turquoise yesterday, with the addition that a few years ago the coalition won in Navarra over Geroa Bai - a Basque coalition of which the PNV is a part -, coloring The northern third of the regional community is of that color, with some bastions in the central third.

The PNV runs the risk of focusing its hegemony in Bizkaia, and the territorial issue in the Basque Country is very relevant.

The fifth space in Basque politics, that of the confederal left, suffered a tremendous setback in yesterday's elections, certifying that the decision to run separately was lethal for their interests.

Podemos has gone from winning two general elections in Euskadi (in 2015 in votes, and in 2016 in votes and seats) to becoming an extra-parliamentary force. Sumar, meanwhile, won a seat for Álava, although his candidate for lehendakari, Alba García, was left out of the Basque Parliament.

Had they participated in a coalition they would have secured 3 seats, a figure similar to the representation that Ezker Batua/Izquierda Unida obtained in the first elections of this century, until in 2009 it was left with only one parliamentarian. That is to say, their poor results are not solely due to the decision to attend separately.

The potential that this fifth area of ​​Basque politics showed has been reduced to ashes in less than a decade.