The big news from over here is that Basque Country prime minister Juan José Ibarretxe of the PNV has called regional elections for April 17, as he had said he would do. This announcement comes right on the heels of the nationally televised debate over the "Ibarretxe plan" that was held in the Spanish Parliament in Madrid. Everybody talked a lot and then, of course, the Socialists and the PP voted the plan down massively. For more information, enter "plan Ibarretxe" or suchlike in the Search box above, because we've already covered this in great detail.
Here's my guess. Ibarretxe is figuring that, on the basis of his performance before Parliament and the sheer nerve of his openly defiant attitude, his party will do well in the upcoming elections. If he can get reelected, he'll have a much stronger platform on which to base taking further steps in his plan. If he somehow pulls off a big win, which I don't think is likely, so much the better.
In most of Spain regional elections are not taken particularly seriously by many people, which I think is goddamn stupid of them, but that's just me. Turnout for a regional election is always lower than for a general, and especially in Catalonia and the Basque Country. In Catalonia, the Catalan nationalist parties do much better in the regionals because all their voters think Catalan elections are important, while only some of the non-Catalanista voters do. The same is true of Basque nationalists up there. So what you're going to have on April 17 is a motivated heavy turnout of Basque nationalist voters, for sure. Even the ETA supporters, many of whom usually boycott elections, are going to turn out for this one.
What the opposition, the PP and the Socialists, needs to do is take this one seriously and get out the vote. They need the turnout for this election that they normally get only in a general election, and it would be better if they can beat even that. IF they can get out their supporters who normally probably wouldn't vote they should be able to hurt Ibarretxe, but I don't know if they can stop him from winning re-election or not.
My battle plan, for the PP, is to copy the Republicans in the States, based on the supposition that the Republicans in the States are probably the smartest political operators in the world. What the Republicans would do is first look at what you got right now. You got three political parties up there, the PP, the Socialists, and the Communists, against the Retch Plan. Problem: the PP and Socialists don't like or trust one another, and communication between the two is lousy. Meanwhile, you got two political parties, the PNV and pro-terrorist Herri Batasuna, in favor of it. Screw them, they're the enemy.
What you have to do if you're the PP is think about what the Socialists are going to do. They're probably going to go all Zap-happy and talk about dialogue and shit and all the people who always vote Socialist, like the state bureaucrats and public school teachers and progressive feminists and such, will come out and vote for them. They're going to be the good cop. So you be the bad cop. The most important thing, remember, is not beating the Socialists, but beating Retch and the boys.
(If anything, it would actually help your cause if you could manage to Michael Mooreishly piss off Socialist voters enough to turn out huge to vote against you because they hate you even more than the Retch plan. So you should send your biggest right-wing Spanish nationalists up there, like Jiménez Losantos and Manuel Fraga and El Fary, just to irritate the Socialists.)
That means you try to turn this into a referendum on terrorism. Play as dirty as you can. Constantly wave the bloody shirt of ETA. Tar the slightly more moderate but still racist and near-fascist PNV with the open murderous fascism of ETA, because the two are comrades on this issue. And bring out the anti-nationalist vote. The nationalist vote is closed off to you anyway; there's no reason for you to try to attract them, they wouldn't vote for you if you gave them each a hundred bucks. (Ten thousand, I'm not so sure. That might be approaching some of their prices.) So talk a whole lot about Spain and how you can be a proud Basque and a good Spaniard at the same time just like Ignacio de Loyola or whoever. Don't worry about the lefties and the peaceniks; the SocioCommunists will get those people. Don't worry about pushing up enemy voter turnout, all the enemy voters are going to turn out no matter what. Go hardcore anti-terrorist and Spanish nationalist, and we'll win this one.
Mr. Rajoy, that took me about an hour to think up. My bill is in the mail.