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Ruling Party Loses Seats In Basque Vote

Associated Press
Monday, April 18, 2005; Page A10

VITORIA, Spain, April 17 -- The Basque region's ruling nationalists, who are pushing for more autonomy from Spain, won a key regional election Sunday but fell short of a majority, losing seats as a banned pro-independence party drew unexpectedly high support, according to government figures.

The wealthy three-province region in northern Spain has had broad self-rule since 1978, and the incumbent president, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, was seeking enough voter support to pressure the Spanish government to negotiate on his plan for Basque autonomy, which borders on independence.

But with 92 percent of the votes counted, his governing Basque Nationalist Party and a moderate ally had won 29 seats in the 75-member Basque parliament, far short of the 38 needed for an outright majority and down from 33 in the outgoing parliament, the Basque Interior Ministry said.

An obscure pro-independence party endorsed by Batasuna, the party seen as the political wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, won eight seats, the results showed. If the results hold, it would be a major setback for the ruling nationalists. Batasuna, which for the first time was banned from running, had seven seats in the outgoing legislature.

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