Basque party withdraws support for minority Spanish govt

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The Basque National Party has withdrawn its support for Spain's minority government in protest over a Supreme Court decision to bar a new pro-independence coalition from standing in municipal elections.

The party agreed in October to support Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist government, which is seven seats short of a majority in parliament, in exchange for more powers for the Basque region.

The agreement has allowed the government to pass reforms aimed at fending off market fears that Spain will need a Greek-style bailout, including a budget for 2011 that included steep spending cuts.

But Basque National Party president Inigo Urkullu said late Monday that his party was "suspending as of now all cooperation and support" for the government in the wake of the court decision against Bildu, which Zapatero backed.

"We absolutely reject this political illegalisation," he told a press conference in the Bilbao, the Basque region's financial capital.

Spain's Supreme Court on Sunday banned some 250 lists of candidates presented by Bildu from standing in local elections on May 22 because of their ties with Batasuna, the outlawed political wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA.

Batasuna was banned in 2003 because of its supposed links with ETA, which is held responsible for 829 deaths in a four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings for independence for the Basque Country of northern Spain and southwestern France.

Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba had argued that Bildu was "part of ETA's strategy" and said some of its members "have a direct link to the outlawed Batasuna."

Bildu was formed with two legal far-left Basque parties, Eusko Alkartasuna and Alternatiba, earlier this month after the Supreme Court banned a new Basque pro-independence party called Sortu, arguing it was an extension of Batasuna.

The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) has six deputies in the national parliament.

To pass legislation the government still needed one more vote on top of the support from the PNV which usually came from Coalicion Canaria, a regional party from Spain's Canary Islands which has two seats.

© 2011 AFP

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