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The Juntas Generales (Batzar Nagusiak in Basque) are representative assemblies in the Southern Basque Country that go back to the 14th century.[1] The three main Juntas Generals in the Basque Country were - and are - the Juntas Generales de Vizcaya, the Juntas Generales de Guipúzcoa and the Juntas Generales de Álava.

They were part of an early form of democratic institutions. At the local level, the heads of households (male or female) would meet on Sundays after church at the church door in a meeting called elizate (or anteiglesia in Spanish) to debate and decide on local issues. An elizate in turn would elect someone to represent the local community at the juntas, which existed from the district level right up to the provincial Juntas Generales.[1]

Contents

Historical development

Little is known about the historical background of these local and regional institutions prior to the 14th century.[1] Broadly speaking, two historical periods can be distinguished:

  1. The period from the 14th century to 1876 when the Juntas Generales were abolished
  2. The period from 1979 to the present when the Juntas Generales were reinstated.

After the First Carlist War, the fueros were much weakened and eventually fully abolished after the Second Carlist War in 1876.[1] Although the Spanish Government of the time established the conciertos económicos involving low taxes, protective tariffs and self-collection of taxes not dissimilar to rights formerly enshrined in the fueros, the Juntas Generales ceased to exist as institutions.[1]

Following the Spanish transition to democracy in the 1970's the Statute of Autonomy of the Basque Country re-instated the Juntas Generales in Biscay, Gipuzkoa and Álava in 1979.[1]

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Navarre

Unlike the other Basque provinces, Navarre had evolved into the Kingdom of Navarre and had developed feudal traditions and institutions in line with other European kingdoms of the time. As a result, it was largely excluded from the development of such early democratic institutions.[1]

It did have a charter however, the 1841 Ley Paccionada de Fueros which Navarre managed to protect when the fueros of Biscay, Gipuzkoa and Álava were abolished in 1879.[2]

The Juntas Generales de Vizcaya

The Casa de Juntas in Gernika.

Both historically and currently, the Juntas Generales of Biscay are based in Gernika, at the famous Casa de Juntas. Prior to the abolition of the foral laws and the Juntas Generales of Biscay, the Basque señoríos met under the Oak of Gernika to swear they would respect the ancient laws of Biscay.[1]

Of all historical Juntas Generales, this is perhaps the most widely known and important one as it was in Gernika the Spanish monarchs were required to swear to uphold the Basque freedoms since the incorporation of Biscay and Gipuzkoa into the Kingdom of Castile from 1200 onwards.[1]

The modern era

The modern Juntas Generales de Vizcaya were re-instated in 1979 and form a unicameral assembly. Its 51 (90 in 1979 only) members, the batzarkideak (in Basque) or apoderados (in Spanish), are elected by the people of Biscay every four years alongside the municipal elections.

Their duties are to:

  • form the Provincial Government of Biscay (the Diputación Foral de Vizcaya (Spanish)/Bizkaiko Foru Aldundia (Basque)
  • to elect a president
  • to develop the foral laws of Biscay
  • to administer the province's budget

The party political composition since 1979 has been as follows:

1979 1983 1987 1991 1995 1999 2003 2007
PNV-EAJ 40 26 16 21 20 17 22 23
PSOE 14 13 12 12 10 10 11 14
EE1 4 2 4 2
PP/AP -- 4 1 4 9 10 10 8
EA 7 4 1 4 5 1
EB/IU/PCE/EPK 3 -- -- -- 4 1 3 3
Izquierda Abertzale
(HB/EH/ANV)
19 6 10 8 5 9 -- 1
Aralar 1
UCD/CDS 10 -- 1
EHE 2 --
Total 90 51 51 51 51 51 51 51

1Since the 1995 elections the EE has been part of the PSE (PSOE).

The lehendakari of the Juntas Generales of Biscay has hailed from the Basque Nationalist Party since 1987:

Legislature Lehendakaria Party
I. (1979-1983) ?
II. (1983-1987) ?
III. (1987-1991) Antxon Aurre Elorrieta EAJ-PNV
IV. (1991-1995) Antxon Aurre Elorrieta EAJ-PNV
V. (1995-1999) Aitor Esteban Bravo EAJ-PNV
VI. (1999-2003) Aitor Esteban Bravo EAJ-PNV
VII. (2003-2007) Ana Madariaga Ugarte EAJ-PNV
VIII. (2007-2011) Ana Madariaga Ugarte EAJ-PNV

The Northern Basque Country

The northern provinces also had assemblies that were largely independent of those of the French state and held charters - the fors, the northern equivalant of the fueros.[1] These largely remained intact until the Napoleonic period but were overall less widely known due to the the north falling behind in terms of economic development.[1]

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Trask, L. The History of Basque Routledge: 1997 ISBN 0-415-13116-2
  2. ^ Torrealdi, JM El Libro Negro del Euskera Ttarttalo: 1998 ISBN 84-8091-395-9

External links


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