Arnaldo Otegi, Former ETA Activist, Remains Prominent in Basque Politics After Prison Release

Basque separatist group ETA's former leader Arnaldo Otegi's leftist coalition EH Bildu poised to win Basque regional elections, raising concerns over the legacy of ETA's violence in Spain.

Safak Costu
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Arnaldo Otegi, Former ETA Activist, Remains Prominent in Basque Politics After Prison Release

Arnaldo Otegi, Former ETA Activist, Remains Prominent in Basque Politics After Prison Release

Arnaldo Otegi, a former activist jailed for his connection to the Basque terrorist group ETA, remains a prominent figure in Basque politics after his release from prison in Spain. Otegi's leftist coalition, EH Bildu, is well-positioned to win the upcoming Basque regional elections, potentially defeating the moderate Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) that has ruled the region for most of the past 44 years.

EH Bildu's gains are largely due to its social agenda, which has resonated with voters amid the pandemic's impact on the Basque health system and a housing crisis. Otegi, who serves as the leader of EH Bildu, has been a driving force behind the coalition's rise in popularity. "The legacy of ETA's violence remains a live issue in Spanish politics, with the Socialists and the more cautious Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) expected to play a key role in the formation of the next regional government, even if EH Bildu emerges as the primary force in the Basque Country," according to one analysis.

However, the coalition's links to ETA's violent past have generated controversy, with the party's candidate Pello Otxandiano struggling to clearly condemn the group's actions. During the tightly contested election campaign, Otxandiano refused to label ETA as a terrorist organization, drawing criticism from other parties. The PNV has sought to distance itself from EH Bildu, with PNV president Andoni Ortuzar emphasizing that his party presents itself to society with a "clean face" and does not want "defections" or "stolen votes."

Why this matters: The prominence of Arnaldo Otegi and the rise of EH Bildu in Basque politics highlight the ongoing challenges of addressing the legacy of ETA's separatist violence in Spain. The outcome of the Basque regional elections could have significant implications for the future of the region and its relationship with the central government in Madrid.

The question remains whether Basque society has become immune to efforts to revive the ghost of ETA or will punish EH Bildu for its reluctance to clearly condemn the group's violent past. As the Basque regional elections approach, the PNV and the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSE) are confident of renewing their governing coalition, but EH Bildu continues to trust in its potential victory. The results of the election will provide insight into the evolving political landscape of the Basque Country and the enduring impact of ETA's legacy.

Key Takeaways

  • Arnaldo Otegi, ex-ETA member, leads leftist coalition EH Bildu in Basque elections.
  • EH Bildu poised to defeat moderate Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) in regional vote.
  • EH Bildu's social agenda resonates, but links to ETA's violent past draw criticism.
  • Outcome could impact Basque-Madrid relations; PNV and Socialists aim to retain power.
  • Basque society's response to ETA's legacy will shape the election results.