Spain's Socialists aim to form govt in Basque region

4th March 2009, Comments 0 comments

Basque Socialist Party leader Patxi Lopez will seek support in the assembly to be president of the Basque government.

BILBAO – Spain's Socialists said Tuesday they aim to form a government in the troubled Basque region and end 30 years of nationalist rule there following weekend elections that saw them finish second.

While the incumbent Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) won the most seats in the 75-seat Basque assembly, non-nationalist parties won a combined majority for the first time since Spain returned to democracy in 1975.

Basque Socialist Party leader Patxi Lopez said he would seek support in the assembly to be elected Lehendakari, or president of the Basque government, allowing his party to govern the separatist-minded region bordering France.

"It can be a Socialist Party government that seeks alliances to push forward the measures that this country needs," he told a news conference in Bilbao.

Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist Party won 24 seats, up from 18, in the polls and could see the number of seats rise to 25 once ballots from abroad are counted.

There had been speculation that Lopez would seek to form a coalition with the two other non-nationalist parties, the conservative Popular Party (PP) and the smaller centrist UPD party, which won 13 and one seat respectively.

The PP has already indicated that it is willing to back Lopez for the position of Lehendakari without demanding a role in the regional government.

The PNV, which has ruled the Basque region since it gained its own assembly in 1980, won 30 seats in Sunday's regional vote, but failed to secure an absolute majority due to a disappointing show by its smaller coalition partners.

Lopez had argued during the campaign that Basques need practical solutions to the economic slump instead of the grand plans for sovereignty proposed by the nationalists.

Zapatero's favourable attitude towards granting more powers to Spain's regions and his controversial attempts to negotiate peace with the armed Basque separatist group ETA were seen as the cause of the rise in Socialist support.

AFP / Expatica

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