- Basque elections: Guipuzcoa electoral board bans Otegi from running for office
- Ciudadanos and PP water down anti-corruption deal
Basque elections: Guipuzcoa electoral board bans Otegi from running for office
The electoral board of the province of Guipuzcoa has ruled that Arnaldo Otegi (EH Bildu) is inelegible to run for office. The ruling will only be firm on Friday, and then his team will be able appeal the decision to the administrative litigation court of San Sebastián. The final decision will belong to the Constitutional Court, which will rule a few days before the campagin kicks off, on 7 September.
Arnaldo Otegi, EH Bildu‘s candidate, is a historical leader of the nationalist left in the Basque country. He was a member of terrorist group ETA until the early 90s, a crime he was convicted for. After that, he chased a political career, and has led different parties, including the now illegal Batasuna.
Otegi was imprisoned for glorifying ETA (in 2007). When was set free a year after, his figure started to change, as he openly said that he supported a peace process in the Basque Country, and that the time for violence was over. He has never condemned ETA’s murders, though.
He was imprisoned again in 2010 for trying to rebuild Batasuna, and spent six years in jail. He was freed in March. However, associated to this sentence, his right to run for office was suspended until 2021, a fact that has been taken into account by the electoral board of Guipuzcoa. Otegi claims that there are precedents that allow him to run, because his sentence is not specific about the positions his not allowed to hold.
This said, it must be understand that the fight around Otegi’s right to run for office is a political one, and not a legal one. Arnaldo Otegi is a very divisive figure both in the Basque Country and the rest of Spain. Hailed by many as the main leaderhead of the Basque pro-independence movement, his past relationship with ETA makes him the target of outright hate from conservative sectors of society, which at the same time improves his image among left-wing voters. Otegi was freed in March 2016, after spending six years in prison for allegedly trying to rebuild the illegalised party Batasuna and “glorifying ETA” in a rally in San Sebastian in 2010. His imprisonment is seen by many as politically motivated.
One must understand that ETA’s terrorism is heavily instrumentalised in the Spanish political sphere. Insisting in his inability to run would increase polarization in the Basque Country and Catalonia, where the Spanish establishment would be perceived as authoritarian. At the same time, his nomination is a way to polarize the campaign and attract the sympathy of left wing voters from parties such as Podemos.
Ciudadanos and PP water down anti-corruption deal
Ciudadanos and PP negotiations have re-defined the concept of political corruption to exclude any case in which there was not an illegal monetary gain. In this sense, their anti-corruption deal leaves out other crimes such as the breach of public duties (prevarication), nepotism or embezzlement. PP‘s Vice-Secretary of Organisation, Fernando Martínez Maíllo said that “you can’t call corruption what is not corruption”.
This move leaves conservative MP Óscar Clavell off the hook. He was indicted for embezzlement, breach of public duties, fraud and illegal inaction, and he was being investigated for paying 707,000 euros while he was the mayor of a town in Castellón to a cleaning company against the will of the city hall. Now he’s got parliamentary immunity as an MP.
I think this piece of news doesn’t need much explanation. As you remember, Ciudadanos demanded that PP accepted six conditions to start negotiations and support Rajoy’s re-election. This six conditions, which included four measures to fight corruption, and which Ciudadanos assured were “innegotiable”, have ended up being quite negotiable indeed. Yesterday we knew that they have taken the Barcenas name from the Parliamentary inquiry, and today we find out that they have refedined the term “corruption”.
Several PP‘s senior officers are involved in major corruption cases, including one (the Barcenas case) in which the party itself is indicted for destroying evidence and hindering justice. PP‘s branches in Madrid and Valencia have collapsed, with most of their senior members being accused or indicted of corruption, and both are now managed externally.
Mariano Rajoy himself sent sms messages to former treasurer, Luis Barcenas, when the latter was already imprisoned for organising the illegal funding of the party and paying illegal commisions to high ranking members of the party, including (allegedly) Rajoy himself. In those messages Rajoy said that they were doing everything they could, and asked him to “be strong”. A few days later, Rajoy lied to the parliament, saying that he hadn’t been in touch with Barcenas in a long time.
Corruption is the main reason why parties have stayed away from Rajoy and refused to negotiate with him, so it’s the most important cause of the current political deadlock. Thus, the stalemate is now strengthened, as watered down anti-corruption measures will keep PSOE away from the right wing duo.