Basque Nationalist Party

Basque Nationalist Party
Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea (Basque)
Partido Nacionalista Vasco (Spanish)
Parti Nationaliste Basque (French)
President Andoni Ortuzar
Founder Sabino Arana
Founded 1895 (1895)
Headquarters Sabin Etxea, Ibáñez de Bilbao, 16
Youth wing Euzko Gaztedi
Membership 32,000
Ideology Basque nationalism[1][2][3][4]
Christian democracy[4][6][7]
Conservative liberalism[11]
Political position Centre-right
European affiliation European Democratic Party
International affiliation None, previously Alliance of Democrats[22][23]
European Parliament group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Colors Red
Congress of Deputies
5 / 18
Spanish Senate
6 / 15
European Parliament
1 / 54
Basque Parliament
29 / 75
Parliament of Navarre
4 / 50

Inside Geroa Bai

Juntas Generales
54 / 153
Town councillors in the Basque Autonomous Community
1,017 / 2,628

The Basque Nationalist Party (Basque: Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea, EAJ; Spanish: Partido Nacionalista Vasco, PNV; French: Parti Nationaliste Basque, PNB) is a Christian democratic and Basque nationalist party. It is both the oldest and largest Basque nationalist political party. It is especially strong in Biscay but has a great sway in the entire Basque Autonomous Community and has a minor presence in Navarre (where it is a member of the coalition Geroa Bai, formerly named Nafarroa Bai) and a marginal one in the French Basque Country. The party has led the Basque regional government for a long period spanning since the devolution of Basque autonomy in the early 1980s until 2009. It has also played an important role in the Spanish Congress, along other regional nationalist parties.

In Basque it is called Euzko Alderdi Jeltzalea (EAJ) (literally meaning 'Basque Party of Supporters of God and Old Laws', or Fuero) and in Spanish it is called the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV). In Spain it is commonly referred to as PNV whereas its French branch is the Parti Nationaliste Basque (EAJ-PNB). The party typically refers to itself as EAJ-PNV. The current chairman of EAJ-PNV is Andoni Ortuzar. The youth wing of the Basque Nationalist Party is called EGI (Euzko Gaztedi Indarra, Basque Youth Force).

The party also has offices among the Basque diaspora, mainly in Venezuela, Argentina, Mexico, Uruguay, Chile and the United States.

Since 1932, EAJ-PNV celebrates on Easter the Aberri Eguna, literally "Basque Homeland Day".[24] Also, since 1977, the party celebrates Alderdi Eguna (Party Day). The party's social offices are called batzokis, of which there are over 200 throughout the world.[25]

Currently a member of the European Democratic Party, the Basque Nationalist Party was previously a member of the European Free Alliance from 1999 to 2004.[26] Even earlier it had been affiliated with the European People's Party from which it resigned before the European Parliament election of 1999, and the Christian Democrat International until its expulsion in 2000.[27]

Origins and early history

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politics and government of
Basque Country
In 1898, the party opened its second batzoki ("meeting place", a club and bar) in Barakaldo.

The party was founded in 1895 by Sabino de Arana Goiri as a Catholic conservative party agitating for the restoration of self-government and the defense of Juramento de Larrazabal Basque traditional values and identity. Currently, it describes itself as Basque, democratic, participatory, plural, and humanist. It is a moderate nationalist party which favours greater autonomy, for the Basque nation. EAJ-PNV opposes political violence.

In its beginnings, the party established a requirement for its members to prove Basque ancestry by having a minimum number of Basque surnames.

In 1921, the Arana movement split into the traditionalist Comunión Nacionalista Vasca ("Basque Nationalist Communion") and the independentist Aberri ("Homeland").

During the single party dictatorship rule of general Miguel Primo de Rivera, the nationalist parties were outlawed and persecuted. However, its activity continued under the guise of mountain (mendigoizale) and folklore clubs.

At the end of 1930, Aberri and CNV reunited under the old name of EAJ-PNV. However, a small group formed Acción Nacionalista Vasca ("Basque Nationalist Action"). It was on the moderate nationalist left, non-confessional and open to alliances with the republican and socialist parties fighting against the dictatorship.

The Second Spanish Republic

PNV sticker. Text: "Euzkadi´k bear zaitu" (Euzkadi needs you). It is inspired by Alfred Leete's British poster for Kitchener's Army.


The division between autonomism and independentism appeared again during the second Spanish Republic. Headed by Eli Gallastegi, a small group of independentists, gathered around the weekly Jagi-Jagi and the Mountaineer Federation of Biscay, left the party. They rejected the autonomy that PNV was working for.

The Spanish civil war and Franco's rule

Civil War

After the coup d'état of 18 July 1936, the party felt torn. It shared the rebel side's Catholicism and there was pressure from the Vatican to keep away from the Republic, but the promised autonomy and their anti-Fascist ideology led them to side with the republican government.

The Biscayne and Gipuzkoan branches, the more important in number, declared support for the Republic, democracy and anti-Fascism in the ensuing Spanish Civil War and were key in balancing those provinces to the Republican side. In the territory seized by the rebels, PNV members faced tough times. During the military uprising in Navarre, the Basque nationalist mayor of Estella-Lizarra Fortunato Aguirre was arrested by the Spanish nationalist rebels (18 July 1936), and killed in September. Some Basque nationalists could flee north to Basque areas loyal to the Republic, or France. However, some members of the Alavese and Navarrese committees, ahead of an official decision, published notes refusing support to the Republic. Notwithstanding their initial ambiguous position in certain areas, the party premises and press in Álava and Navarre were closed in that month of July.

Some PNV sympathizers and members joined the Carlist battalions, either out of conviction or to avoid attacks. By October 1936, a war front had been established at the northern tip of Álava and to the west of Donostia. Initially, the Defence Committees in Biscay and Gipuzkoa were dominated by the Popular Front. After hard negotiations, eventually Basque autonomy was granted within the Second Spanish Republic in late 1936, and the new autonomous government immediately organized the Basque Army, consisting of militias recruited by each of the political organizations, including PNV.

The autonomous government avoided chaos in Biscay and western Gipuzkoa, and took the reins of the coordination and provision of military resistance. On occupation of the territories loyal to the Republic, the Francoist repression was focused on leftists, but Basque nationalists were also targeted, facing prison, humiliation, and death. As the rebel troops approached Biscay, the Carlist press in Pamplona even called for the extermination of Basque nationalists.[28]

José Antonio Aguirre, the party leader, became in October 1936 the first lendakari (Basque president) of the wartime multipartite Basque Government, ruling the unconquered parts of Biscay and Gipuzkoa. In April 1937, the city of Guernica was bombed by German airplanes. Jose Antonio de Aguirre stated that "the German planes bombed us with a brutality that had never been seen before for two and a half hours." Pablo Picasso made a painting in remembrance of the massacre named after the city that year.[29]

When Bilbao, the most populated town in the Basque Country, was taken by Franco's troops the Basque nationalists decided to keep untouched all heavy manufacturing industry of Bilbao, steel processing and shipping, thinking that they had the responsibility of securing the prosperity of their people in the future. This decision made available to the fascist rebels that important industry.

In July 1937, having lost all the Basque territory, the Basque army retreated towards Santander. Out of their land and without help from the Republic, the Basque Army surrendered to the Italian Corpo Truppe Volontari through the so-called Santoña Agreement. The heads of the EAJ-PNV stayed with the soldiers to follow their men's same fate. Prison and executions ordered by the fascists followed. The Basque government then moved to Barcelona until the fall of Catalonia, and on out of Spain into permanent exile, first to France where they organized the camps and services with the president heading it personally. Aguirre was in Belgium when Hitler occupied that country, starting a long travel to Berlin under a false identity.

Under the protection of a Panamanian ambassador, Aguirre got to reach Sweden, and dodging the SS German intelligence, he arrived in Brazil and Uruguay where his dignity was reinstated and given visa to New York. There he settled down under the protection of American Basques as teacher of Columbia University.

Exile during the post-war

The president of the Basque Government in exile was always a PNV member and even the sole Spanish representative in the United Nations was the Basque appointee Jesús de Galíndez until his murder in an obscure episode regarding his PhD Thesis about Dominican Republic's dictator Trujillo. He also decided to put the large Basque exiles' network at the service of the Allied side and collaborated with the US Secretary of State and the CIA during the Cold War to fight Communism in Spanish America.

When the United States decided to back Franco in 1952 Aguirre went to France anew where the Basque Government in exile was established. Also, he learned there that the pro-Nazi French government of Vichy confiscated the Basque Government's building and that the anti-Nazi De Gaulle maintained it as a Spanish Government's possession, given that the Basque Government has never had any international consideration other than representatives of a region in Spain at most. The building today is the Instituto Cervantes premises where French people can learn any of the Spanish languages, including Basque.

Generational conflict and new alliances

In 1959 ETA was created by young undergraduates from the area of Bilbao (organization EKIN) lured by Basque nationalist ideology, but increasingly disgruntled at the ineffective political action of the PNV, largely daunted by after-war repression and scattered in exile. In addition, the new generation resented an attempt of PNV to pull the strings of their movement and PNV's youth wing Euzko Gaztedi (EGI), with whom they had merged in the mid-50s, as well as showing a more modern stance, stressing for one the language as the centre of Basqueness, instead of race.

In the 1950s and 60s the party looked for alliances abroad, expecting at first that the defeat of the Axis in World War II would encourage USA's support for an eventual overthrow of Franco's hold on power, which didn't happen. In addition, it was a founder party of the Christian Democrat International, but now the party is an active member of the European Democratic Party, with the French Union pour la Démocratie Française, etc.

In the late 60s and early 70s, contacts started with other Spanish parties to assert PNV's position in a new post-Francoist order. At the same time, the Basque Nationalist Party confirmed its stance against ETA in a period when its violent actions saw a surge and its influence in society was very apparent, especially in street protests. Juan de Ajuriaguerra paved the way for PNV's comeback to Basque politics from exile, and started to negotiate their participation in the new status-quo, with special attention to a new Statute.

A Basque Statute

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politics and government of

PNV's good results in 1977 and 1978 confirmed PNV's central position in Basque politics. While PNV advocated for abstention in the referendum on the Spanish Constitution for its lack of Basque input, the party supported the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country, approved in December 1978, and paved the way to its success in the first elections held in the Basque Autonomous Community, once Navarre was left out.

In the transition years after Franco's death in 1975, Xabier Arzallus came to prominence, who masterminded the so-called "Spirit of Arriaga" to accommodate the party to the new Spanish democracy. Despite some internal tensions, the former priest and Jesuit came up reinforced and was chosen undisputed party leader. PNV found in Biscay its main and strongest support base, while in Navarre PNV was next to non-existent.

Carlos Garaikoetxea spearheaded the new autonomous government after being elected with 38.8% of the votes and during this first term the Basque Nationalist Party held office without outside support. During this period, PNV's challenges were closely associated to its position in the Basque Government: defense of the Statute, devolution of powers from Madrid, discrediting of political violence, restructuring of manufacturing industry steeped in crisis.

As of 1985 tensions inside the party spurred the formation of a splinter group with a stronghold in Gipuzkoa, which in turn led to a new party in 1987, when dissenters from the PNV formed Eusko Alkartasuna ("Basque Solidarity"). Carlos Garaikoetxea was then elected as the first president of the rival party. The split from the PNV was mainly based on:

Afterwards, some ideological differences also came out. EA adopted a social-democratic ideology, while the PNV remained more attached to its Christian-democratic ideas. The split was particularly bitter given that it was headed by the lehendakari (premier) himself. Many PNV political bars (batzoki, "meeting place") became alkartetxe ("meeting house").

Since 1991, as time has eased the bitter split (helped by the fact that both Arzalluz and Garaikoetxea have gone into political retirement), both parties agreed to form an electoral coalition in a number of local elections as a means to maximize the nationalist votes, which eventually led to reunite both candidatures in a joint list again for the regional governments of Navarra and the Basque Autonomous Community in 1998. Thus, EA has participated in several PNV-led Basque governments, including the 2006 government of President Juan José Ibarretxe Markuartu. Still, EA decided to run by itself in the municipal elections held in May 2007.

Former president Juan José Ibarretxe spearheaded a call for the reform of the Statute of Autonomy that governs the Basque Country Autonomous Community, through a proposal widely known as the Ibarretxe Plan, passed by the Basque Parliament but not even accepted for discussion by the Spanish Cortes Generales.

In 2009 PNV was expelled from office by an alliance of the Spanish Socialists' Basque branch, the PSE, and the Spanish conservatives (PP), taking advantage of a distorted parliament representation issued from the outlawing of leftist Basque nationalists. Until that moment, the PNV dominated every administration of the Basque government. In Navarre, EA and PNV formed the coalition Nafarroa Bai'Yes to Navarre'along with Aralar and Batzarre, but a split within the coalition led to its revamp as Geroa Bai. In terms of ideology, by November 2016 the Basque Nationalist Party shifted its rhetoric to make the autonomous community of Euskadi the subject of the Basque nation,[30]

Position in recent referendums

PNV called for:

Presidents of the party since 1895

Note: The National Council of the Basque Nationalist Party (Euzkadi-Buru-Batzar) was created in 1911. Therefore, Sabino Arana and Ángel Zabala were only presidents of the Regional Council of Biscay (Bizkai-Buru-Batzar)

Josu Jon Imaz (in white shirt) and Iñigo Urkullu (in black shirt) in 2007


JeL (Jaungoikoa eta Lagi-zaŕa, "God and the old law" in Basque, Lege-zaharra in Standard Basque) is the motto of the party. The "old laws" referred to are the fueros, the traditional laws of the Basque provinces, observed by the kings of Castille, and later Spain, until the Carlist Wars. The motto of Basque Carlists was Dios, patria, fueros, rey ("God, Country, Fueros, king"). Separatist nationalism in parts of Spain is related in some of these areas with former Carlist background.

JEL is the origin of jelkide ("JEL-companion", EAJ-PNV member) and jeltzale ("TZALE-follower", as in the gloss of EAJ, Eusko Alderdi Jeltzalea).

Alderdi Eguna

Alderdi Eguna ("Party Day") is the national holiday of the Basque Nationalist Party which is annually celebrated on the last Sunday of September, the Sunday closest to the feast day of Saint Michael, the patron saint of Euskal Herria and of the Basque Nationalist Party.

The central act of this celebration is a political meeting of leading nationalists, but the celebration begins in the morning with a traditional festival in which the different municipal organizations from the party set up stands to sell drinks and their more typical products, all brightened up by traditional music. Dances and traditional sports are also enjoyed. The celebration takes place in an open air arena (currently in Foronda, Álava), and lasts until nightfall.

Election results

Basque Parliament

Basque Parliament
Election Votes % ±pp Seats won +/− Size Government Leader
1980 349,102 38.0% New
25 / 60
Increase25 #1 Minority gov't Carlos Garaikoetxea
1984 451,178 41.8% Increase3.8
32 / 75
Increase7 #1 Minority gov't Carlos Garaikoetxea
1986 271,208 23.6% Decrease18.2
17 / 75
Decrease15 #1 Coalition gov't
José Antonio Ardanza
1990 289,701 28.3% Increase4.7
22 / 75
Increase5 #1 Coalition gov't
José Antonio Ardanza
1994 304,346 29.3% Increase1.0
22 / 75
±0 #1 Coalition gov't
José Antonio Ardanza
1998 350,322 27.6% Decrease1.7
21 / 75
Decrease1 #1 Coalition gov't
Juan José Ibarretxe
2001 604,2221 42.4% Increase14.8
26 / 75
Increase5 #1 Coalition gov't
Juan José Ibarretxe
2005 468,1171 38.4% Decrease4.0
21 / 75
Decrease5 #1 Coalition gov't
Juan José Ibarretxe
2009 399,600 38.1% Decrease0.3
30 / 75
Increase8 #1 Opposition Juan José Ibarretxe
2012 384,766 34.2% Decrease3.9
27 / 75
Decrease3 #1 Minority gov't Iñigo Urkullu
2016 398,168 37.4% Increase3.2
28 / 75
Increase1 #1 Minority coalition gov't
Iñigo Urkullu

1 Joint list with Basque Solidarity.

See also


  1. Ahedo, Igor (2005), "Political parties in the Basque autonomous community", Basque Society: Structures, Institutions, And Contemporary Life, Center for Basque Studies, p. 177
  2. Ramiro, Luis; Morales, Laura (2007), "European integration and Spanish parties: Elite empowerment amidst limited adaptation", The Europeanization of National Political Parties: Power and organizational adaptation, Routledge, p. 145
  3. Pallarés, Francesc; Keating, Michael (2006), "Multi-level electoral competition: sub-state elections and party systems in Spain", Devolution and electoral politics, Manchester University Press, p. 101
  4. 1 2 Gibbons 1999, p. 25: «the PNV, a Basque nationalist and Christian democratic party»
  5. Magone, José M. (2009), Contemporary Spanish Politics (Second ed.), Routledge, p. 170
  6. Papini, Roberto (2010), "The Identity of the Christian Democratic Movement and Theory of Democracy", Religion, the Enlightenment, and the New Global Order, Columbia University Press, p. 259
  7. Keating, Michael (2009), "Nationalist Movements in Comparative Perspective", The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, Edinburgh University Press, p. 208
  8. Basabe Lloréns, Felipe (2003), "Spain: the emergence of a new major actor in the European arena", Fifteen Into One?: The European Union and Its Member States, Manchester University Press, p. 207
  9. Irvin, Cynthia L. (2000), "Negotiating End Games: A Comparative Analysis of the IRA and ETA", Reconcilable Differences: Turning Points in Ethnopolitical Conflict, Kumarian Press, p. 191
  10. Newton, Michael T. (1997), Institutions of Modern Spain: A Political and Economic Guide, Cambridge University Press, p. 207
  11. Hans Slomp (26 September 2011). Europe, A Political Profile: An American Companion to European Politics [2 volumes]: An American Companion to European Politics. ABC-CLIO. p. 519. ISBN 978-0-313-39182-8.
  12. Gibbons 1999, p. 135: «and PP, PNV and CiU on the centre-right»
  13. Hepburn 2013, p. 38: «EA, besides adopting a more radical stance on the centre-periphery dimension, has targeted the regionalist electorate distributed between the centre-right PNV and extreme-left HB-Ba».
  14. Anttiroiko & Mälkiä 2007, p. 394.
  15. Verney 2013: «PNV is a centre-right party, which controlled a majority government in the Basque Country until 1986, and subsequently kept office through coalitions until the last regional elections in 2009»
  16. Ştefuriuc 2013, p. 107: «the PNV is a centre-right party»
  17. Cabestan & Pavković 2013, p. 116: «Euzko Alderdi Jeltzale—Basque Nationalist Party (PNV): [...] It is centre right and Catholic in orientation»
  18. Mateos, Araceli; Penadés, Alberto (2013). "España: crisis y recortes" (pdf). Revista de ciencia política (Santiago) (in Spanish). 33 (1): 175. ISSN 0718-090X. Retrieved January 4, 2016. Convergencia i Unió (CiU) y el Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV-EAJ) son los partidos nacionalistas de centro-derecha en Cataluña y el País Vasco, respectivamente
  19. González García, Robert; Benítez Romero, Isabel (2014). "El movimiento estudiantil catalán en el nuevo ciclo de luchas" (PDF). Ánfora: Revista Científica de la Universidad Autónoma de Manizales (in Spanish). 21 (37): 108. ISSN 0121-6538. Archived from the original (pdf) on January 6, 2016. Retrieved January 4, 2016. Coincidirá, a nivel del Estado español, con gobiernos en minoría de PSOE (1993-1996) y PP (1996-2000) con pactos con los partidos nacionalistas de centro-derecha (CIU, PNV y CC)
  20. López Basaguren & Escajedo San Epifanio 2013, p. 859: «Turning to the data by party, the overall means indicate that the center-right regional parties (PNV, CiU, CC, UPN)»
  21. Chislett 2013, p. 148: «Until then the political divide had been on the basis of those who supported the institutional status quo, including the center-right Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV, Basque Nationalist Party)»
  22. Nuñez, Xosé-Manoel (2003), "A State of Many Nations: The Construction of a Plural Spanish Society since 1976", The Social Construction of Diversity, Berghahn Books, p. 287
  23. Keating, Michael; Loughlin, John; Deschouwer, Kris (2003), Culture, Institutions, and Economic Development: A Study of Eight European Regions, Edward Elgar Publishing, p. 55
  25. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-06-23. Retrieved 2015-08-29.
  27. Jan Mansvelt Beck (2004). Territory and Terror: Conflicting Nationalisms in the Basque Country. Routledge. p. 162.
  28. Paul Preston (2013). The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain. London, UK: HarperCollins. p. 436. ISBN 978-0-00-638695-7.
  29. Müller, Annika (April 26, 2012). "A Survivor Recalls the Horrors of Guernica". Spiegel Online. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  30. "Urkullu: "Euskadi es una nación que debe ser reconocida y necesita mecanismos de bilateralidad"". EuropaPress. 2016-11-23. Retrieved 2016-12-01. Compare to Sabino Arana's definition of Euzkadi as a political projection of Euskal Herria


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