Basque parliamentary election, 2009

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Basque parliamentary election, 2009
Basque Country (autonomous community)
2005 ←
1 March 2009 → 2012

All 75 seats in the Basque Parliament
38 seats needed for a majority
Registered 1,776,059 Decrease1.3%
Turnout 1,148,697 (64.7%)
Decrease3.3 pp
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Juan José Ibarretxe Patxi López Antonio Basagoiti
Leader since 31 January 1998 23 March 2002 25 October 2008
Last election 21 seats, 27.8%[a] 18 seats, 22.5% 15 seats, 17.3%
Seats won 30 25 13
Seat change Increase9 Increase7 Decrease2
Popular vote 399,600 318,112 146,148
Percentage 38.1% 30.4% 13.9%
Swing Increase10.3 pp Increase7.9 pp Decrease3.4 pp

  Fourth party Fifth party Sixth party
Leader Aintzane Ezenarro Unai Ziarreta Javier Madrazo
Party Aralar EA IU
Leader since 14 November 2004 16 December 2007 14 May 1994
Last election 1 seat, 2.3% 8 seats, 10.6%[a] 3 seats, 5.3%
Seats won 4 1 1
Seat change Increase3 Decrease7 Decrease2
Popular vote 62,514 38,198 36,373
Percentage 6.0% 3.6% 3.5%
Swing Increase3.7 pp Decrease7.0 pp Decrease1.8 pp

Lehendakari before election

Juan José Ibarretxe

Elected Lehendakari

Patxi López

The 2009 Basque parliamentary election was held on Sunday, 1 March 2009, to elect the 9th Basque Parliament, the regional legislature of the Spanish autonomous community of the Basque Country. At stake were all 75 seats in the Parliament, determining the Lehendakari (President of the Basque Country).

Shortly before the election, two parties reportedly tied to ETAD3M (Democracia 3 Millones or Demokrazia Hiru Milloi) and Askatasuna, "Freedom" – were banned by a court ruling from standing in the election.[1]

In stark contrast with the latest Spanish general elections, which show an increasing tendency to bipartidism, this Basque regional election increased the number of parties or electoral alliances with representation in the Basque parliament to seven, with the entrance of UPyD. This places the Basque parliament at the top of the most diverse regional parliaments in Spain, with Catalonia's and the Balearic Islands's (six each) a close second.

After nearly 30 years of constant presence in the regional executive, this election opened the door for a non-Basque Nationalist Party (PNV)-led government, since its government partners for the past decade, Eusko Alkartasuna and Esker Batua, fared particularly badly. The PNV managed to scoop up most of EA's support and gain an additional representative even without their former coalition partner, whose group was greatly reduced from six representatives (in the PNV-EA coalition in the 2005 election) to just one. Both the EA and EB leaders lost their seats and resigned in the aftermath of the election.

In the non-nationalist camp, the Socialists gained seven seats to garner a 25-strong caucus, an all-around good result across the three provinces but less than the 26-28 projected by some polls on election day and still far from the first-party status hoped by party leader Patxi López. The People's Party had switched leaders less than a year before the elections: former leader María San Gil left citing disagreements with the national leadership and was replaced by Antonio Basagoiti, who led the party into the election and achieved 13 representatives, a net loss of two from 2005. The new national party Union, Progress and Democracy, founded in 2007 as a response to the perceived overinfluence of nationalist parties in Spain-wide politics, managed to gain one seat in Álava.

Electoral system

The 75 members of the Basque Parliament were elected in 3 multi-member districts, corresponding to the Basque Country's three provinces, using the D'Hondt method and a closed-list proportional representation system. Each district was assigned a fixed set of seats, distributed as follows: Alava (25), Biscay (25) and Gipuzkoa (25).

Voting was on the basis of universal suffrage in a secret ballot. Only lists polling above 3% of valid votes in each district (which include blank ballots—for none of the above) were entitled to enter the seat distribution.[2]



Summary of the 1 March 2009 Basque Parliament election results
Party Vote Seats
Votes  % ±pp Won +/−
Basque Nationalist Party (EAJ-PNV)[a] 399,600 38.14 Increase10.35 30 Increase9
Socialist Party of the Basque Country-Basque Country Left (PSE-EE/PSOE) 318,112 30.36 Increase7.85 25 Increase7
People's Party (PP) 146,148 13.95 Decrease3.32 13 Decrease2
Aralar (Aralar) 62,514 5.97 Increase3.66 4 Increase3
Basque Solidarity (EA)[a] 38,198 3.65 Decrease6.94 1 Decrease7
United Left-Greens (EB-B) 36,373 3.47 Decrease1.86 1 Decrease2
Union, Progress and Democracy (UPyD) 22,233 2.12 New 1 Increase1
The Greens (B-LV) 5,643 0.54 New 0 ±0
For a Fairer World (PUM+J) 3,072 0.29 Increase0.19 0 ±0
Anti-Bullfighting Party Against Mistreatment of Animals (PACMA) 1,504 0.14 Decrease0.19 0 ±0
Internationalist Socialist Workers' Party (POSI) 1,178 0.11 Decrease0.08 0 ±0
Family and Life Party (PFyV) 1,052 0.10 New 0 ±0
Humanist Party (PH) 418 0.04 Decrease0.08 0 ±0
Carlist Party (EKA-PC) 151 0.01 ±0.03 0 ±0
Communist Party of the Basque Homelands (PCTV-EHAK) N/A N/A Decrease12.35 0 Decrease9
Blank ballots 11,562 1.10 Increase0.36
Total 1,047,758 100.00 75 ±0
Valid votes 1,047,758 91.21 Decrease8.46
Invalid votes 100,939 8.79 Increase8.46
Votes cast / turnout 1,148,697 64.68 Decrease3.32
Abstentions 627,362 35.32 Increase3.32
Registered voters 1,776,059
Source: Argos Information Portal
Vote share
Blank ballots
Parliamentary seats

Results counting void votes

After D3M and Askatasuna were banned, Basque separatists were asked to cast their vote for D3M, whose votes would then be counted as void. Some people were arrested because they delivered door-to-door ballots and stuck cartels.[3] According to some sources, the pro-independence Basque left (that were formerly represented by Batasuna and later by EHAK) was surprised by the lower support of their void option. If the void votes are to be counted as the support of this option, it would have obtained the worst results in their history, having received 100,924 void votes, 50,000 less than in the previous regional election and less than half their historical top in the 1998 election.[4]

Major electoral analysis has been performed on the results and the issue of the void votes by pro-Basque nationalist and non-Basque nationalist parties alike. It is a frequent misunderstanding that, had the votes for the illegal lists been counted as valid, they would have been entitled to seven seats.[5] Actually, taking into account that the average of "normal" void votes (struck-out names, double-voting, etc.) in the last three Basque parliamentary elections (1998, 2001 and 2005) was about 0,4%,[4] and assuming that all the void votes that could not be accounted for by that statistic alone were cast for a hypothetical unitary abertzale list (instead of for two different lists, Askatasuna and D3M), those ~97,000 votes would have accounted for at most 6 seats.[6]


Nationalist leader and incumbent Lehendakari Juan José Ibarretxe tried, but failed, to garner support for a new term in government.

Even in a Parliament already used to diversity, the election result was wide open. Respecting parliamentary convention, all parties decided to let the PNV try to form a coalition, but it was finally not able to garner a majority support:

  • A PNV-PSE government would have enjoyed the support of 55 MPs out of 75 and the support of part of the socialist and most of the nationalist bases. However, PSE-EE leader Patxi López requested that he become the new Lehendakari, citing the 1986 precedent in which the PSE won more seats but let the PNV chair the coalition government on account of the latter having received more votes. This terms were unacceptable to PNV candidate and incumbent Lehendakari Juan José Ibarretxe and the PNV as a whole, who expressed its "outrage" at the demands of Mr. López's formation.
  • A PNV-PP government would have secured 43 MPs. While unseen in the Basque Country, the People's Party has indeed acted as a junior coalition partner in Catalonia, where it supported the previously-regionalist CiU until the 2003 election. Nevertheless, PP leader Antonio Basagoiti rejected the pact, remarking that the PNV should leave the government if only for the sake of democracy and alternance.
  • A minority PNV government, either with or without its recent allies EA and EB was not an option, since even with the support of the other nationalist party, Aralar, the coalition would be limited to 36 MPs against the previsible rejection of the other 39.
Socialist leader Patxi Lopez, second in the election, became the new Lehendakari after securing a deal with the conservative PP

After the nationalists' failure to build a successful coalition, the Socialist Party started its contacts. They soon secured the support of their national arch-rival, the conservative People's Party, which vowed to support him in order to oust the nationalists from government after nearly three decades of constant presence. Furthermore Union, Progress and Democracy and Esker Batua, with one MP each, promised not to vote against Mr. López in the investiture session. Thus, the PSE-EE had secured 38 votes in favour and two abstentions, with at most 35 MPs against, and should nothing fail, Mr. López would head the new Basque government. The confirmation of this pact caused the outrage of the PNV, which vowed to put forth its own candidate in the investiture session[7] citing their "right" to head the government as the top-voted party.

The conditions of the pact between the socialist and the conservatives were a matter of constant speculation in the whole of Spain for most of March, with the issue being raised in many political talk shows and press editorials. Many radicals from both parties claimed that the other would just use their coalition partner, effectively diluting their core ideology. As the negotiation advanced, PP leader Antonio Basagoiti made it clear that he would not request positions in the new Government, acknowledging the PSE-EE wish to form a minority government with external support from his party. He vowed to provide stability to the new executive, and attacked the "shamelessness" of PNV outcries, citing that the Álava provincial government was headed by the PNV itself which had only been the third party in the last election. Finally it was decided that the PP would head the Basque Parliament[8] and refrain from moving or supporting any vote of no confidence, while the Socialists would form a minority government on their own and treat the PP as their "preferred" coalition partner, rejecting deals with other parties that went against their "main" one with the conservatives.

The final deal[9] was ratified by both parties and leaked to the public in the last days of March, with its formal signature being performed by the negotiation teams on April 1.[10] The new Parliament assembled on April 3 and elected its bureau, with PP MP Arantza Quiroga as its Speaker and two PSE-EE members ensuring a majority in the 5-member organ. The investiture session for the new Lehendakari, for which both López and the incumbent Ibarretxe stood, was held on May 5. Mr. López was elected Lehendakari of the Basque Country on a 39-35 vote and was sworn in two days later at the Gernika House of Assemblies.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d Due to impossibility of direct comparison due to the end of the political alliance between PNV and EA, an unofficial comparison is calculated using the strength ratio (21:8) of both parties in Parliament.


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Law 5/1990, of 15 June, of elections to the Basque Parliament.". 
  3. ^ Gara: Official and unofficial results (Basque)
  4. ^ a b Source: Basque Government electoral results record [1] (English) [2] (Spanish) [3] (Basque)
  5. ^ Pú D3M habría logrado siete escaños (Spanish)
  6. ^ The discrepancy can be understood in terms of the seat allocation method used (the D'Hondt method) and, most importantly, the fact that seats are independently assigned in three 25-seat constituencies. Thus, a party can lose up to three seats by losing a single vote in each constituency.
  7. ^ Ibarrexe se presentará a la investidura por tener "80.000 razones" más que López (Spanish)
  8. ^ El PP presidirá el Parlamento vasco a cambio de que Patxi López sea lehendakari (Spanish)
  9. ^ Pú leaked draft of the PSE-PP deal (Spanish)
  10. ^ BBC News: Spanish rivals secure Basque deal (English)
  11. ^ "Patxi López ya es lehendakari tras prometer su cargo en Gernika" (in Spanish). El Mundo. 2009-05-07. Archived from the original on 8 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-07.