Moderate Basque leader quits politics in shock move

12th September 2007, Comments 0 comments

12 September 2007, MADRID- (AFP) - The leader of the moderate Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), Josu Jon Imaz, on Wednesday sent an open letter to Spanish media to say he was standing down and leaving active politics.

12 September 2007

MADRID- (AFP) - The leader of the moderate Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), Josu Jon Imaz, on Wednesday sent an open letter to Spanish media to say he was standing down and leaving active politics.

"I will not be a candidate for the PNV presidency to which I was elected four years ago," said Imaz.

"I will return to professional life," added Imaz, whose party leads the regional government in the troubled northern region and who had been a strong ally of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero during the later's attempts last year to negotiate a peace settlement with ETA.

Imaz admitted there was tension at the heart of the PNV, which supports Basque greater autonomy but does not sympathise with the attempts of radicals to achieve by force an independent Basque state.

"The risk of division at the heart of the PNV injects an element of instability and radicalism into Basque politics," Imaz warned.

Imaz had sided with Zapatero in defending, amid opposition from PNV elements backing further autonomy, Madrid's insistence that Basques could not be consulted on their institutional political future until radicals had laid down their arms definitively.

The PNV has been divided in recent weeks over how to respond since the head of the autonomous Basque government, Juan Jose Ibarrexte, likewise a PNV member, again proposed that Basque voters should be consulted on the region's political future.

In contrast, Imaz backed Zapatero's mantra of "peace first, then politics."

Zapatero told Cadena Ser radio that he was "perplexed" by Imaz's decision to step down.

[Copyright AFP with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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