First Spanish General Election Without ETA's Terrorism

11/10/2011 06:26 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

After 43 years of terror and 829 murders, Basque terrorist group ETA announced "the definitive cease to armed activity" last October 20, exactly one month before the general election. This will thus be a campaign without ETA, the first ever since democracy was restored in Spain in 1976. Unfortunately for the current party in office, the center-left wing party PSOE, there is almost no hope to get any income in the election out of the terrorists' announcement.

ETA's official end notice is one of the best news ever received in the country. Yet in recent times terrorism was only the 13th biggest concern for Spaniards as the terrorist group has been almost inoperative in recent years and definitely weakened. The nightmare of the late 1970s and 1980s, when the group could kill 100 people as on average every year appear to be long past. On the last years ETA has been forced to stop planning attacks after a series of arrests left it leaderless and disorganized. Nowadays the economical crisis and the high unemployment figures are the biggest concerns between the Spaniards citizens. The general perception is that ETA's problem is not as serious as it used to be.

The latest survey on voting intention, carried out by the Center of Sociological Research and published on November 4, reflects the victory of the conservative Popular Party (PP). Out of the 350 seats in Parliament, PP could obtain between 190 and 195. This result could mean, besides a comfortable absolute majority, about 40 more seats than in the past 2008 election. The PSOE could lose some 50 MPs, obtaining between 116-121 seats. The disenchantment with the economic management of the PSOE's Government is apparent.

Being the party in government and not being rewarded by handling the end of terrorism is a paradox the United Kingdom knows well. When the Irish terrorist group, IRA, announced the cease to the armed activity on July 2005, the Labour party in office did not get any electoral revenue.

In regions like the Basque Country and Navarre, both in the north of Spain, ETA's cease-fire could have a much greater impact on the voting than in the rest of the country. Actually, the basque nationalist left wing party, which has traditionally been ETA's political arm, would get most of its votes from these regions. Their members will presumably get some benefit out of the end of ETA and will have some seats at the National Parliament after the election. This fact is going to presumably change the Spanish political scene for the next four years.

The end of terrorism will therefore have a greater impact on the local parties rather than on the larger ones. Even though the current PSOE's president, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, has worked hard for the end of ETA during last eight years in office, the economic crisis has possibly irreparably damaged his party's chances of winning the election. The attention will now have to move towards the winner on the election, probably the popular conservative party.

The next steps will be crucial to put a definitive end to the consequences of four decades of terrorism and manage ETA's dissolution. One of the toughest issues from now onwards will be the relations with the victims and their families. They have always strongly demanded apologies from the terrorists. As of today, they still don't have them.

Araceli Guede and Leyre Pejenaute are students of the School of Journalism of UAM / El País