Thursday, January 20

Ciudadanos vanishes in the Basque Country | Spain

The president of Ciudadanos, Inés Arrimadas, accompanied by the Basque parliamentarians Luis Gordillo (left) and José Manuel Gil, upon her arrival at the Basque Parliament in Vitoria in November 2020.
The president of Ciudadanos, Inés Arrimadas, accompanied by the Basque parliamentarians Luis Gordillo (left) and José Manuel Gil, upon her arrival at the Basque Parliament in Vitoria in November 2020.David Aguilar (EFE)

The shock suffered by the PP + Cs coalition in the Basque Parliament with the leak from the former leader of Cs, the deputy Luis Gordillo, to the ranks of the PP last week represents another setback for the party of Inés Arrimadas in Euskadi, a territory that has always been hostile to it. Basque voters have gradually turned their backs on the party, condemning it to be an irrelevant political option. The liberal formation has gone from competing with the PP (also a very minority in the autonomous community) for the same electorate to participating in the elections in coalition with the popular and ending up practically swallowed by the party that now leads the popular Carlos Iturgaiz, main architect of the signing of Gordillo. Edmundo Bal, spokesman for Ciudadanos, again criticized the PP’s maneuver this Monday: “In Euskadi today Mr. Pablo Casado, Teodoro García Egea, Iturgaiz, Arnaldo Otegui, Urkullu and Ortuzar should be happy, because the PP, instead of looking towards the union of constitutionalism in a place as sensitive as Euskadi, in a land that is watered with the blood of innocents because of ETA, he prefers to look at his own initials. They have shown that they have no word, “he protested. Bal, however, reiterated that the coalition with the PP will continue.

After Gordillo’s departure, Ciudadanos only has one institutional position in the entire Basque territory: deputy José Manuel Gil. There are no more deputies (before there were two, with Gordillo) or councilors in any municipality. Gil, general coordinator of training in Euskadi, acknowledges to EL PAÍS the difficult situation the party is going through, but is hopeful: “Basque society has the past that it has. Politics is marked by a nationalism that permeates everything. There is a bag of votes that are cowed and have resigned. That is our mission: to reillusion them ”, he affirms.

Since the general elections of 2015, the first electoral appointment attended by Citizens in the Basque Country, support in that region has plummeted. That year the party, with Albert Rivera as candidate, won 49,887 ballots (4.09%). Just four years later, in the general elections of November 2019, the loss of support that the Arrimadas formation already suffered throughout the country was also reflected in the Basque Country: 13,279 votes (1.13%). In neither of the two appointments did Cs obtain parliamentary representation in Madrid for the Basque Country. “We are influenced by the situation of the party at the national level. Now it’s starting to come back, but a lot has happened to us and it is true that we have suffered that crisis, but I have no doubt that we are going to overcome it. I feel encouraged and motivated to continue working together with my colleagues to expand the space of the liberal center in the Basque Country ”, Gil reiterates.

At the regional level, Ciudadanos appeared for the first time at the polls in 2016 with a candidate for lehendakari, Nicolás de Miguel, who had previously been a member of the United Left and UPyD and who in 2019 would run for mayor of Torremolinos (Malaga). The result was 21,477 votes (2.03%). The joint ballot with the PP did not achieve better results in 2020: the PP + Cs formula obtained 60,650 votes (6.77%). Four years earlier, the PP alone had obtained 107,771 and nine seats. Although thanks to the common strategy they achieved six deputies in 2019. The seat of Luis Gordillo was decided by a slim margin of 50 votes and now he has also changed sides. The presence of Cs in other Basque institutions has also been minimal: in 2015 it achieved a councilor in Getxo (Bizkaia), another in Laguardia (Álava) and a representative in the General Boards of Alava, but none completed the legislature as elected by Citizens. Currently, the training does not have any councilor in the Basque Country.

The political discourse of the liberal party began with a frontal rejection of the Economic Agreement, the special financing system enjoyed by the Basque Country and Navarra and that Cs considered a privilege with respect to the rest of the communities. That rejection is no longer so blunt now: Arrimadas chose to qualify it to favor the pact that Cs sealed with the PP to participate in a coalition in the 2020 elections.

Maintain the coalition

Despite the crisis after the departure of Luis Gordillo, Edmundo Bal insisted this Monday on defending the continuity of the coalition with the PP in the Basque Parliament: “For the benefit of the whole union of constitutionalists we will try to maintain that union with all the constitutionalists in Euskadi. I believe that this is the way for this liberal constitutionalist option of respect for the rights of all, this electoral offer, to be attractive to citizens who are already fed up with the impositions of nationalism, ”he said. The coordinator José Manuel Gil spoke along the same lines, although regarding a future joint ballot he preferred not to make conjectures: “I don’t understand what the PP has done. There is much left for the elections and it is not possible to know what we are going to do, “he said.

The Basque popular leader, Carlos Iturgaiz, also defended this Thursday the idea of ​​continuing together in coalition, although he stressed that whoever wants to follow Gordillo’s path has “open doors” for the PP. Since this Thursday, Iturgaiz and Gil have not spoken personally. Sources from the National Executive of Citizens admit that they are “analyzing the situation” and have to see “what steps” the popular ones are taking. “We have our dignity and we will have to act accordingly. Our interest is to defend the interest of the Basque Country, while the PP has put its initials before those of constitutionalism, ”laments a party leader. Another member of the leadership ventures that, although “the coalition continues its course”, in the long term the maneuver of the popular ones “will take its toll on them because no one wants to vote for the school bully.”

The journey of Cs in the last five years in the Basque Country has been marked by the flight or expulsion of its representatives. The only party member in the Álava provincial Parliament, Miguel Ángel Carrera, was expelled in 2016 after reporting to the Ertzaintza that he and six other colleagues had been spied on by the party. That same year the mayor in Laguardia (Álava), José Antonio Mateo, also left, and another twenty militants were discharged. At the end of 2019, the national leadership dismissed his former number two, Javier Gómez, accused of attempting an electoral agreement with the popular ones that concealed a landing of members of the PP. That entente did not occur at that time and also precipitated the fall of the then leader of the popular Basques, Alfonso Alonso, who was replaced by Iturgaiz, who months later, however, had the blessing of Pablo Casado to form the PP-Ciudadanos coalition. For the Basque deputy Luis Gordillo one of the problems of Ciudadanos en Euskadi is that “it is a party obsessed with not having barons and forgot that it is necessary to have intermediate structures that serve as control to the national leadership itself and to consolidate regional and local structures” .

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