Spain: Basque leader to fight armed separatists

 The leader of the Basque Socialist Party, Patxi Lopez, gestures as he delivers his presidential speech at the Basque Parliament in Vitoria northern S...

Spain Basque President

The leader of the Basque Socialist Party, Patxi Lopez, gestures as he delivers his presidential speech at the Basque Parliament in Vitoria northern S...

The politician expected to be sworn in as the Basque region's first non-nationalist president vowed Tuesday to wage a relentless fight against the armed separatist group ETA.
Basque Socialist leader Patxi Lopez said he wants to unite Basque society, which he described as divided between those want independence from Spain and those who prefer continuing to be part of it.
Lopez addressed the Basque regional parliament in the capital city Vitoria before a vote in which he is expected to be confirmed as the region's president, with help from archrival conservatives.
That would end nearly 30 years of rule by the Basque Nationalist Party, which governed on a platform that flirted with independence for the wealthy but troubled region bordering France.
"I will be a president who will fight ETA day in and day out," Lopez, 49, told the 75-seat legislature.
The Basque Nationalist Party won more seats than any other in a regional election on March 1, but it fell short of a majority. The voting marked the first time parties that support ETA were barred from fielding candidates.
Together, the Basque Socialist Party and the conservative Popular Party won 38 seats, enough for a majority. The two parties that are at each other's throats on just about everything at the national level but they are teaming up in the Basque region to oust the nationalists.
A small moderate party with one seat is expected to join them in the vote Tuesday evening.
The current nationalist president, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, tried to call a referendum last year on the region's relations with the rest of Spain _ widely criticized as a veiled step toward a breakaway _ but courts stopped him. A few years ago he tried to have the region's constitution changed to similar effect.
Lopez said Tuesday he wanted to "unite society to do away with political and institutional confrontation, to place political priority on people's real problems."
His Socialist party and the conservatives will not form a formal coalition. Rather, the conservatives have agreed to support him as regional president and help him get bills passed. In a concession, one of their members will be speaker of the Basque parliament.
Ibarretxe complained Tuesday that the new minority government is illegitimate because his party won more seats in the March election and the pro-ETA parties _ on which he has relied in the past for support _ now have no representation in the parliament.
In his speech, Lopez paid tribute to victims of ETA, which has killed more than 825 people since the late 1960s in its battle for an independent homeland in territory straddling northern Spain and southwest France.
Last month police in southwest France arrested ETA's suspected leader _ the third such boss to fall in less than year _ and Spanish authorities later said he had been planning a truck bombing in Vitoria coinciding with Lopez's swearing-in.
A democratic society, Lopez said Tuesday, "cannot let its legitimate government be blackmailed by a terrorist organization."

Updated : 2021-04-13 21:33 GMT+08:00