Election campaigning in Spain’s turbulent Basque country is reaching a climax, for a ballot that could see the socialists make historic inroads.
The socialist candidate hopeful to become the Basque regional president, Patxi Lopez, had support from Spain’s Prime Minister in a campaign that could loosen the nationalists’ grip on power for the first time in nearly 30 years.
“The best thing for the Basque country, for the Socialist Party, for daily life together, for freedom and for ending the violence is yet to come. And it will be with Patxi Lopez as a leader,” said Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
The ruling party – the PNV – have always said Basques should have the right to decide whether or not to stay part of Spain, but they reject the violence of the armed breakaway group ETA. Two parties alleged to have links with the ETA have been banned from the election.
The PNV’s leader, Juan Jose Ibarretxe urged those who feel disenfranchised not to spoil their ballots, saying: “Only those who take part can change things. I might make mistakes, but I will give my all and I will always be faithful to this country.”
The elections in the Basque country, and Galicia in the north west are the first since Spain’s economy took a nose-dive. The leader of the conservative opposition in Madrid, Mariano Rajoy campaigned in his home region of Galicia. But his Peoples’ Party is wracked by allegations of deep-seated corruption.
The socialists there are hoping to hold onto the power they won in 2005, after 16 years of rule by a former minister from the Franco era.