The office of Spain's Chief Public Prosecutor has closed the door on activating a clause in the country's political party law to ban the Basque party EH Bildu after it included 44 former members of the now-defunct ETA terrorist group in its electoral lists for the upcoming municipal elections, seven of those candidates having been convicted for blood crimes. The prosecutors have thus blocked the aspirations of parts of the Spanish right - the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso (People's Party), as well as the far-right party Vox - who have demanded in recent days that the necessary legal steps be taken to remove the pro-independence Basque party from the political landscape. EH Bildu had already apologised and amended its candidatures to exclude the seven convicted of blood crimes, but now, in a technical report drawn up at the request of a Civil Guards association, the prosecutors, using the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights, conclude that Bildu cannot be declared illegal because, in its opinion, it "constitutes a democratic political group" taking into account "its activity, the legality of its means and the compatibility of its purposes with democratic principles".
In the arguments, the prosecutors defend the legality of the Bildu candidacies because it believes that they comply with the law on political parties, which states that "any project is understood to be compatible with the Constitution as long as it does not defend an activity that violates democratic principles or the fundamental rights of citizens". In this regard, they consider that they do not meet any of the requirements included in the rule to urge illegalization, such as "encouraging, propitiating or legitimizing violence as a method to achieve political goals".
"They have condemned and condemn terrorist violence"
The office's report relies on different court judgments to conclude that Bildu should not be banned. According to a ruling by the Constitutional Court, "the coalition is made up of two political parties that have repeatedly condemned and continue to condemn ETA's violence". Here it is added that the terrorist group disbanded in October 2011, that since then it has not killed again and that the 44 candidates "have accepted and assumed the exercise of political activity within the democratic and constitutional framework".
Quoting from Supreme Court decisions, the prosecutors note that the Spanish Constitution "includes all ideas and political projects, even those that offend, shock and disturb". "There is room for ideas contrary to the constitutional system, those which seek to replace it, repeal it and, of course, those ideas which postulate different forms of territorial organization", referring to Bildu's aspiration for the independence of Euskadi. Another court judgment recalls that "the dissolution of a political party is one of the most serious measures that can be adopted in a democracy". In this sense, citing the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, the report emphasizes that a party cannot be banned "for the fact that they demand autonomy or even the secession of part of a country and, therefore, demand fundamental constitutional and territorial changes". In 2003, the Basque pro-independence party Herri Batasuna was banned under the law of political parties after the Supreme Court found that acted in support of ETA and refused to condemn terrorist violence. That was eight years before the terrorist group dissolved.
Ayuso still insists
However, there is an election campaign on. From Madrid, despite the reversal from the chief prosecutor, the incumbent regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso remains in favour of the illegalization of Bildu through article 11 of the political party law and has added, after the leadership of her own PP stated it does not contemplate this route, that she thinks it should be tried. "I think it can be reviewed and we should try," she said. The Madrid president justified promoting the ban by claiming that this party "has frequently mutated over time". She asserted that the law allows "the Spanish Congress and Senate" to take a vote on such action with a vote to urge action from the Spanish government, which "cannot refuse", to start the procedures to ban a political party in the Supreme Court. Calls to ban Catalan pro-independence political parties have also frequently been voiced by the Spanish right since the independence referendum of October 1st, 2017.