Basque separatist to head San Sebastian

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A Basque separatist politician whose party was accused of having links to the armed ETA group was elected mayor of San Sebastian, the second largest city in the region, on Saturday.

Juan Carlos Izagirre, a doctor, was chosen to lead the San Sebastian municipality following a May 22 vote where his newly formed Bildu party dramatically exceeded expectations.

Bildu won eight seats to seven for the Socialists, who had held power there since 1991.

Bildu, was able to field candidates in the election only after a lengthy court battle to prove it was not a mouthpiece for ETA.

Spain's Constitutional Court on May 6 reversed a Supreme Court decision to ban some 250 lists of candidates from the Bildu coalition because of links to ETA's political arm Batasuna.

By a vote of six to five, judges authorised Bildu, which means "together" in the Basque language, to stand.

Bildu was formed with two legal far-left Basque parties, Eusko Alkartasuna and Alternatiba.

Its creation was almost a last resort, after the Supreme Court banned another newly created Basque pro-independence party called Sortu despite its opposition to violence, arguing it was an extension of Batasuna.

As a result, Bildu became the de facto rallying point for supporters of Batasuna, taking control of dozens of town halls across the region.

The May 22 vote made Bildu the second strongest political movement in the north of Spain, winning more than a quarter of the vote, while the centre-right nationalist PNV party earned just over 30 percent support.

© 2011 AFP

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