THE BASQUE SECESSIONIST PLAN seems to have caused some warming between the Socialist party and the opposition Popular Party, after a very tense period full of mutual recriminations since the March 11 terrorist attacks in Madrid and the general elections three days later which ousted Aznar's party from what it looked a sure victory.
Let's see how much it lasts:
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who on Thursday flatly refused a proposal by the Basque regional premier to negotiate, on Friday agreed to join forces with the main opposition Popular Party to confront the break-away plan.Which is probably going to be the scenario, because the smaller nationalist parties backing Zapatero are quite angry about this latest development:
Facing near-certain defeat in the Madrid parliament, Basque leader Juan Jose Ibarretxe vows to push ahead with a referendum in the restive Basque region on his plan, which he says could end decades of violence by the separatist guerrilla group ETA.
The Basque proposal succeeded in uniting Zapatero and his main political rival, Mariano Rajoy, who leads the centre-right opposition Popular Party (PP) and had been accusing Zapatero of being soft on Basque nationalists.
Zapatero received Rajoy on Friday night, when the opposition leader proposed a bipartisan commission to tackle the Ibarretxe plan and other issues relating to the constitution and home rule for Spain's diverse geographical regions.
The government immediately agreed.
"The Spanish people are asking for stability and certainty, and I have come here to help them get it," Rajoy told a news conference after his two-and-a-half-hour meeting with Zapatero.
Zapatero relies on small regional parties for his parliamentary majority and faces the delicate task of blocking Ibarretxe's manoeuvres without alienating his allies.
Rajoy vowed that his party would back Zapatero in the event that smaller parties withdrew support for his government over the Basque referendum.
Economic powerhouse Catalonia also wants to wrest more power from Madrid this year, and a Basque referendum would be a threat to the unity of Spain, already one of Europe's most decentralised nations.He had also said in the past that one of the conditions for his support for Zapatero was that Zapatero could never reach any kind of agreement, nor even negotiate anything, with the Popular Party, or else. A very tolerant and inclusive man, he is. Y'know, for him it's perfectly OK to secretly go to Perpignan for a fireside chat with ETA's top fugitive leaders while being Catalonia's second highest regional officer, but he crosses the street everytime he sees Aznar or anyone from his party so as not having to shake hands or anything.
The leader of the Republic Left of Catalonia (ERC), which governs in Catalonia with the Socialists, has said his party aims to go a step further than the Ibarretxe plan by winning independence.
In any event, Zapatero has a very hot potato in his hands: if he deals with one side, the other's gonna get mad. I'm not sure he'll be skilled enough to handle it; we'll see how it plays out.