Watch your (co-official) language

Watch your (co-official) language

BORJA SEMPER: The Partido Popular MP spoke in Basque in parliament Photo credit: CC/Emiliano Garcia Page

ON the night of July 23 it was clear the Alberto Nuñez Feijoo had won the general election for the Partido Popular.

It was also obvious that his chances of becoming the next president of the Spanish government were so slim they were emaciated, as the party’s 137 seats, plus Vox’s 33 fell short of the 176 required for an overall majority.

Despite the frustration, not one word of displeasure or criticism was heard, at least not in public.  The party closed protectively around Feijoo, especially its upper echelons who enveloped him with their support and showed no signs of dissent.

Which is not to say that lower down in the party, some quarters detect a certain degree of bemusement.

This was evident when one of the party’s MPs, Irun-born Borja Semper, used Euskera (Basque) on September 19 in the national parliament.  This was the first day when Spain’s co-official languages were permitted in the parliament chamber although the automatic translation headphones were not needed, as Semper immediately repeated them in Spanish.

Only the day before, Semper had declared that the PP would not “play the fool” regarding the freedom to use Euskera, Catalan and Gallego inside parliament, as the party continues to oppose anything but Spanish during debates.

The PP leader Feijoo claimed afterwards that the party’s MPs already knew what Semper intended to do.  Party headquarters also argued that he translated the Basque phrases to demonstrate that it has always been possible to speak any co-official language in parliament by repeating it in Spanish.

“The Spanish don’t need translators to understand each other,” a communique said afterwards.

According to national daily El Mundo, however, Semper’s speech was met with “stupor” from the party’s back benches who claimed they weren’t let in on the joke.

“It was an extraordinary and most serious error,” said one MP with several legislative terms behind her. “The stupefaction was total in all sectors, young and old, hawks and doves.  It’s incomprehensible.”

El Mundo went on to quote others who claimed that people were furious.

“We’ve lost a debate that we had already won,” another unnamed but “well-known” MP lamented.  “Everybody was annoyed,” he finished.

Those in the know maintain that Feijoo does not want the separatists to appropriate Spain’s co-official languages for themselves.

“We can’t let the nationalists take away from us a symbol they want for themselves,” party headquarters said.

Before taking over as PP secretary general Feijoo was president of bilingual Galicia, where Gallego is normalised throughout the social spectrum without being seen as belonging to the nationalists, the same sources said.

Critical but loyal elements further down in the PP pecking order were allegedly perplexed by Semper’s particular strategy, which they either failed to understand or disapproved of.

The PP made clear that it accepts criticism and makes note of comments.

“We aren’t going to expel anybody who says what they are thinking,” sources said, inviting those who disagreed to pass on their ideas to party.

“They will be welcomed, more so in the ‘devil of a situation’ the PP is going through at present,” they added.

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Written by

Linda Hall

Originally from the UK, Linda is based in Valenca and is a reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering local news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at