The Basque ikurrina flag and symbol of Basque nationalism (centre) flanked by local flags in the old town centre of Fuenterrabia (Basque: Hondarribia) in Spain’s Basque Country, 6 September 2016. (Photo by Tim Graham/Getty Images)


Spain: PP to offer Congress presidency to Basque nationalists


Spain’s centre-right Partido Popular (PP) is willing to offer the presidency of Congress to the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), observers say. The PNV has not yet reacted to this proposal.

The offer marks PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo’s most recent attempt to court to the regionalist group as he tries to secure the Spanish premiership. Coalición Canaria (CC), the regional party from the Canary Islands, recommended the move to Feijóo, analysts say.

The PP is approaching the idea with “maximum discretion” but sources have revealed that several regional PP leaders support offering the top job in parliament to the PNV.

The only voices of dissent are from the extremely popular president of the Madrid region Isabel Díaz Ayuso, and the (also popular) mayor of the capital, José Luis Martínez Almeida.

According to Ayuso, the party “that won the elections” should preside over Congress, “not groups in the minority”. Almeida echoed Ayuso’s sentiments.

On the other hand, the separatists in fugitive Carles Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya party see a PNV presidency of Congress as “positive”.

Analysts point out that the move might prompt the seven MPs from Junts to abstain, thereby facilitating a hypothetical Feijóo investiture, although the PP is not formally negotiating with Junts.

Before the PP offer, the PNV had twice rejected calls to support Feijóo. Members stated the PP’s purported proximity with the Conservative party Vox was a “red line” for the Basques.

Andoni Ortuzar, the leader of the PNV, even went on to claim his party had “ruined Feijóo’s investiture”.  Commentators expect the party will soften its position, given the chance it would have to lead the Congressional agenda.

The active favourable votes of Vox’s 33 MPs are indispensable in Feijóo’s calculations. They have not yet reacted to the suggested move regarding the PNV.

With the new Congress due to sit on August 17, Feijóo is running out of time to get enough MPs’ backing to guarantee a successful investiture process. Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s Socialist Party (PSOE) has already publicly nominated his own candidate for the presidency of the parliament. The progressive party Sumar has endorsed the PSOE’s nominee.

Neither the PP nor the PSOE hold enough votes by themselves to secure the presidency. The nominees need the absolute majority of Congress (176 votes) to become President of Parliament in a first round of voting. If no president is elected, more rounds ensue until one candidate receives the most votes.

Congress is set to vote on August 17 regarding a new president. He or she will become Spain’s third-most important authority after the King and the Prime Minister.