Basque PNV to support Spain’s budget despite Catalan standoff
Party considered withdrawing support from Rajoy’s government
Basque nationalists will vote in favor of Spain’s budget in a crucial parliamentary debate on Wednesday. The PNV party promised to withdraw their support from president Mariano Rajoy if he continued to exert direct rule in Catalonia—which he did—but the party ultimately decided to back the bill invoking responsibility.
“Over the past few months, we expressed our will to not negotiate Spain’s budget for 2018 if Article 155 [of the Spanish Constitution] remained in place in Catalonia, and this was a matter of principles,” read a statement by the party. Yet PNV said it was prioritizing the interests of Basque society, as well as the conditions that would favor “an imminent” end to direct rule in Catalonia.
The PNV party has been extremely critical of Rajoy’s handling of the Catalan crisis. Last October, following a declaration of independence, Rajoy sacked all government members in Catalonia and imposed direct rule—a measure long considered as a “nuclear option”.
“There is no doubt he [Catalan president Quim Torra] was aware of the effect and consequences of his actions”
Josu Erkoreka · Basque government spokesperson
Quim Torra, the newly elected Catalan president, promised to reinstate all officials dismissed by Madrid. Rajoy, still in control of the Catalan government, is however blocking the appointment of Torra’s cabinet, as it includes four deposed ministers currently in jail or abroad. On Wednesday, Torra decided to postpone the forming of a new executive to seek legal advice against the Spanish government.
Rajoy promised to lift direct rule once a new government was formed—yet this could ultimately depend on his will to greenlight Torra’s appointments.
PNV said it would only vote in favor of the budget if Rajoy delivered on his promise. Without their votes, the bill would have been rejected in the parliament, the government would have lost the support of the chamber, and Spain could have faced a new election as soon as next year.
Yet, PNV also had strong incentives to support Rajoy’s government. The budget includes some €570 million in investments destined for the Basque country. And perhaps more importantly, Rajoy could have been dethroned as president by Albert Rivera, the leader of Ciutadans, currently soaring in the polls. Rivera is also extremely critical of the high degree of financial autonomy in the Basque country.
Josu Erkoreka, a spokesperson for the Basque government, seemed to be critical of Torra’s decision to appoint ministers in prison or abroad, in what could be seen as an attempt to pave the way for a political u-turn. “There is no doubt he was aware of the effect and consequences of his actions,” he said.