There have been public demonstrations in Spain calling for the nation's 23 million voters to abstain in Wednesday's (15 December) referendum on political reforms.
There have been public demonstrations in Spain calling for the nation's 23 million voters to abstain in Wednesday's (15 December) referendum on political reforms. One of the centres of such demonstrations is the northern coastal city of Bilbao, in breakaway Basque country.
SYNOPSIS: Bilbao has become the centre for much of Spain's anti-government feeling over the past year. Local groups want political reforms but say the present proposals do not go far enough. Some have been actively fighting for the complete separation of the Basque region from the rest of Spain. The campaign has included bombings and assassinations. Other groups say that the present proposals should include the recognition of left-wing opposition parties, and are urging their supporters to abstain from voting.
However, right-wing groups say the proposals go too far, and will bring about a violent swing to the left after 40 years of one-party rule. They fear an increase in the political violence that has occurred since the death of General Francisco Franco. Many of the demonstrations in the north have led to clashes with police and security forces. There have been only a few incidents in Bilbao. But the country's capital, Madrid, saw riot police chase and beat people after a meeting to support the abstention call. The reforms propose a multi-party system to replace the present one-party Cortes--the country's parliament. The proposals were passed by the Cortes.