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Basque Election Tests Support for Greater Autonomy from Madrid


Basques in northern Spain have voted in regional elections with further autonomy from the central government a prime issue.

Voters Sunday were choosing a 75-member regional parliament, and moderate nationalist President Juan Jose Ibarretxe was seeking re-election.

As he cast his ballot, Mr. Ibarretxe said Basques were voting for the future. He has said a strong showing would help him advance his plan for greater autonomy for the Basque region, beyond that granted in 1979. But pre-election opinion polls suggested his Nationalist Basque Party may fall short of a majority in the regional legislature again.

Spanish courts barred the political wing of the armed Basque separatist group ETA (the Batasuna party) from taking part in the election. The party urged its supporters to vote instead for a small communist party.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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