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Saturday 16.12.2017 | Name days: Alvīne

Spanish regional elections: Rajoy wins in Galicia, Basques vote for nationalists

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Mariano Rajoy

Spain’s ruling conservative party has held on to control in regional elections in Galicia, giving a boost to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy as he pushes on with tough austerity measures, even as nationalist parties triumphed in the Basque Country.

The elections in two of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions on Sunday were seen as the first real test for Mr Rajoy’s Popular Party after ten months in power that have seen a deeply unpopular programme of public spending cuts and tax hikes, The Telegraph reported.

Voters had been widely expected to punish the governing party for its handling of the economic crisis, as street protests become more frequent in a nation suffering 25 per cent unemployment.

But, according to exit polls, the Popular Party looked set to retain its absolute majority in Galicia, a conservative heartland where the party has ruled for 24 of the last 31 years, giving much needed breathing space to Mr Rajoy as he weighs up the need to request a full sovereign bail out.

But even while conservative party chiefs celebrated their success in Galicia, the result in the Basque Country threatened to increase tensions with Madrid as voters overwhelmingly backed nationalist and separatist parties.

The moderate Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) which supports auto-determination for the region appeared to have secured the largest share of the vote, although with between 24-27 seats in the 75 seat parliament, far less than an absolute majority.

Coming a close second was the newly formed EH Bildu party, a coalition of radical left-wing separatists who have campaigned for a breakaway state within the European Union. Many of Bildu’s candidates were formerly connected with Batasuna, the outlawed political wing of Basque terrorist group ETA which called a definitive end to its violent struggle a year ago.

Mariano Rajoy, the prime minister who has imposed tough austerity measures on the country, is thought to have delayed asking for an international rescue for Spain until after Sunday’s elections in his home region of Galicia and in the Basque Country.

Spain has already brokered a €100bn (£62bn) bail-out for its banks, but is widely expected to need a rescue itself, despite a slew of tax rises, spending cuts, and labour market reforms. The nation’s balance sheet has been burdened down with the costs of rescuing some of its banks and regional governments, which suffered major losses after the Spanish property bubble burst.

However, even without a bail-out request, Spaniards casting their votes were expected to punish Mariano Rajoy’s conservative People’s Party. It tonight risked losing power in Galicia, and has never won an election in the Basque Country.

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