Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Today's big news from the wacky world of Spanish politics:

Catalan supremo Jordi Pujol is to announce the end of his political career and new elections for November 16. His successor is the mind-numbingly bland Artur Mas, selected by Pujol for his resemblance to a 1940s matinee idol. Mas's opponents include Pasqual Maragall (Socialist - has a slight chance of winning); Josep Pique (Popular Party, therefore with no chance of winning here in Catalonia) and Josep Carod-Rovira (Esquerra Republicana, the extreme nationalists overshadowed by the moderate nationalist Convergencia i Unio party led by Pujol and now fronted by Mas). Though there are important issues to face - law and order, education, road safety, immigration and health - all of the candidates will focus on the bogus non-issue of constitutional reform. This translates as separatism, something which nobody on the steet gives a shit about, but is strangely fascinating to the pols, who should have better things to do.

And the issue of separatism brings us to the second nugget for today. The Basque regional government in Vitoria has presented a lawsuit in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against the Spanish national government in Madrid with reference to the Ley de Partidos (Law of Political Parties), passed last year to ban the ETA political wing Herri Batasuna (or any alias they choose to adopt). The law was enacted, the law was executed, Batasuna's network of offices was closed down, but they still exist as deputies under another name in the Basque parliament. Various orders to throw them out have gone unheeded by the ruling Basque Nationalist Party, and they clearly decided they neded another few years as a delaying tactic. Hence the suit in Strasbourg. It has no chance of succeeding - the last time I looked, the EU Declaration of Rights didn't give free speech and the right of political association to terrorists - but it has the appearance of doing something to resist the so-called "fascism" of Madrid. It's a well-known paradox of the Basque wonderland that the Nationalist party, which tolerates the firebombing and assasination of those who oppose the monolith of Basque separatism, calls the other side Nazis. Even the Basque bishops do it: yesterday the Bishop of San Sebastian - an asshole who will go nameless - declared that the use of legal measures, properly voted on in a democratic assembly was a form of "violence". False equivalence or what?

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