Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FRANCE IN FOCUS

WWI Centenary: the battle for Verdun

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

When big companies want to do good

Read more

REPORTERS

Halal tourism on the rise

Read more

FOCUS

Many Turks angry over Syrian refugee situation

Read more

ENCORE!

Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday : The Best of the Bard

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

The Tour de France, a PR machine

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the third plane crash in one week - from France, Algeria and Burkina Faso

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the plane crash that took 116 lives - almost half of them French

Read more

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • Paris bans new Gaza protest scheduled for Saturday

    Read more

  • French families grieve for Algerian plane crash victims

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • LA Times wipes France off the map in air crash infographic

    Read more

  • Tour de France fans bring the ambience to the Pyrenees

    Read more

  • Halal tourism on the rise

    Read more

  • French lawyer files complaint against Israel at ICC

    Read more

  • Ukraine names acting PM after Yatseniuk's shock resignation

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

Europe

Poll threatens hegemony of Basque nationalists

Video by Guy HEDGECOE , Clément PERROUAULT , Adeline PERCEPT

Latest update : 2009-03-01

Polls opened on Sunday in the Basque region where Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialists are running neck-and-neck with the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), in power since 1980.

AFP - Voters in Spain's northern Basque and Galicia regions went to the polls Sunday in the first electoral test for the country's ruling Socialists since the nation plunged into recession.
   
In the Basque Country, the vote takes place under the shadow of the armed separatist group ETA, which has condemned the polls and staged two bomb attacks last month.
   
A total of around four million people are eligible to vote to elect regional parliaments in what are the first elections since the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was returned to power one year ago.
   
Since then, the global financial crisis has accelerated the collapse of Spain's property market after a decade-long boom, pushing the country into recession.
   
The unemployment rate soared to 13.9 percent in the last quarter of 2008, the highest in the 27-nation European Union.
   
In Sunday's polls, Zapatero will be seeking to measure the degree of support he has to handle the crisis.
   
Opinion polls indicate the Socialists could end the 30-year hold on power by the Basque Nationalist Party in the northern Basque region.
   
A Socialist victory in the wealthy semi-autonomous region would mark the first time since the country returned to democracy in 1975 that the Basque Country is governed by a party that unquestionably backs keeping it as part of Spain.
   
Analysts credit the rise in support for the Socialists in part to Zapatero's bid during his first term to negotiate peace with ETA, blamed for 825 deaths in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland.
   
Those negotiations eventually failed and the group resumed its attacks.
   
Spain's Supreme Court last month banned two pro-independence parties from participating in Sunday's election due to their links to ETA and its outlawed political wing Batasuna.
   
ETA responded to the court decision by staging its first attack in the Spanish capital since December 2006, setting off a van packed with explosives in a business district, causing extensive damage but no injuries.
   
Late last month week, another ETA bomb exploded outside the headquarters of the Basque Socialist Party in the town of Lazkao, causing major damage but no injuries.
   
The bombings raised fears that the regional election could be marred by further ETA attacks.
   
The Basque interior ministry said it is deploying 5,000 police throughout the region Sunday, or more than half of its entire force of 8,000.
   
In the rugged northwestern seafaring region of Galicia, the Socialists hope to hold on to the power they won in 2005, but polls point to a tight race with the conservative Popular Party (PP), Spain's main opposition party.
   
The election results could also determine the future of PP leader Mariano Rajoy, who has struggled with party infighting following two successive national election defeats.
   
Rajoy has campaigned hard in his home region of Galicia, but the party has been hit by allegations of corruption in Madrid and several other regions involving businessmen close to the PP.
   
Polling stations opened in the two regions at 9 am (0800 GMT) and close at 8 pm, when local television stations are expected to release the results of exit polls.
   
The first official results from Basque Country are to be available at 9:30 pm, with final provisional results released 90 minutes later.
  

Date created : 2009-03-01

COMMENT(S)