Basques work on coalition

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The Independent Online
(First Edition) The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), which defends the Basque right to independence while playing down talk of formal separation from Spain, began discussions with other parties yesterday to find a coalition partner to run the largely autonomous region.

The PNV won Sunday's elections for the 75-seat Basque parliament but fell short of an absolute majority, retaining 22 seats and almost 30 per cent of the votes. Its current coalition partner, the Basque Socialist Party (PSE) - a branch of the ruling Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) - slumped from 16 seats to 12, casting doubt on the coalition, since the two parties no longer have the 38 seats for an absolute majority.

The lehendakari, or regional Prime Minister, Jose Antonio Ardanza, is almost certain to continue in the post. He said he was contacting five other parties represented in the new parliament. That excluded Herri Batasuna (HB), political wing of the separatist group ETA, whose support fell from 13 seats to 11.

Mr Ardanza may also seek support from Eusko Alkartasuna (EA), which won eight seats, down from nine.

The conservative Popular Party (PP), the main opposition at the national level, surged from six seats to 11.

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