Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez condemned the assault on the PNV candidate Imanol Pradales (EPA-EFE/IGOR KUPLJENIK)


Fears of political violence in Spain grow after Basque election candidate attacked


The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) candidate for the upcoming regional elections, Imanol Pradales, was attacked on his way to a televised debate.

As he was leaving a campaign rally in the town of Barakaldo in the province of Biscay, a 49-year-old man allegedly pepper-sprayed Pradales.

Pradales was on his way to the TV studios of EITB, the Basque Country’s public broadcasting station, to take part in a debate between the seven Lehendakari (president of the Basque Country) hopefuls in the April 21 vote.

The Ertzaintza, the Basque Police force, captured a suspect who was later put on probation. He faces charges of violating electoral law and if found guilty could be sentenced to up to three years in prison.

Pradales received immediate medical attention after the alleged assault and was able to attend the TV debate at the scheduled time.

“I want to issue my support and solidarity to Imanol Pradales”, said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. “There is no place for aggression in democracy. Never. To anyone,” he added.

The six other candidates for the Basque presidency also condemned the incident.

The PNV president, Andoni Ortuzar, added: ‘This type of behaviour, these types of events, should make us reflect on whether all this tension and division is the way forward for Basque society.”

During the last years of the Francisco Franco dictatorship, throughout the Spanish transition to democracy and up to the early 2000s, the Basque Country had been a hotspot of political violence.

The now disbanded terrorist organisation Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), which sought the “liberation” of the Basque Country, killed more than 800 people, including civilians, politicians and policemen.

In November last year, the former vice-president of the European Parliament Alejo Vidal-Quadras was shot in the face in Madrid’s city centre.

The centre-right Pradales is leading the polls and is expected to win the regional election, albeit with fewer votes than current Lehendakari, the PNV’s Iñigo Urkullo, obtained in the 2020 contest.

Trailing closely behind the PNV is the left-leaning EH Bildu party, which is predicted to widen its parliamentary representation in the election.

The Basque Socialist Party has said it will not help to facilitate a Bildu presidency in the Basque Country.

Last year, Bildu included former ETA members in its lists for July’s Spanish general election.

Both the PNV and Bildu are partners of the ruling Socialist-progressive coalition in the national Parliament.