Basque premier calls early elections

Nationalists and radical left expected to sweep the board in October.

The Socialist regional premier of the Basque Country, Patxi López, has called early elections for October 21, a day after the first anniversary of ETA’s unilateral ceasefire.

“We have already adopted the anti-crisis measures and we have guaranteed that the most disadvantaged will not suffer,” López said on Tuesday morning. “The Basque Country is a more modern and freer country than in 2009. We have done what we promised. We have brought terrorism to an end, we have returned Euskadi to normality and we have guaranteed a high level of public services, leaving behind the permanent confrontation [of the Basque nationalists].”

López denied there was an economic motive behind the decision to call voters to the ballot boxes, saying simply that Basques need to choose “a model” to escape the financial crisis.

However, López’s position as Basque leader has been weakened by the withdrawal of support from the Popular Party (PP), due to his opposition to Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s austerity plans and the presentation of an appeal against cutbacks in health and education. The PP leader in the Basque Country, Antonio Basagoiti, had warned in April that there was a line López could not cross: namely using his position as regional premier to “challenge PP policies.” The PP broke off its pact with the Socialists in May, leading to calls from opposition parties for López to announce early elections.

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