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|Monday, May 14, 2001, updated at 09:38(GMT+8)|
Spanish Basque Nationalists Win Key Regional ElectionModerate Basque nationalists won key elections Sunday in this picturesque region wracked by separatist violence, indicating voters want to move toward independence from Spain but not by violent means.
The Basque Nationalist Party and its coalition partner Eusko Alkartasuna ¡ª which both favor peaceful moves toward independence in this northeastern Spanish region ¡ª fell short of a majority in the regional parliament. However, with more votes than any other bloc, they won the right to try to form a government.
With 99.7% of votes counted, the coalition had won 33 seats, up from 27 in the outgoing 75-seat legislature, the Basque Electoral Commission said.
Euskal Herritarrok, considered the political wing of the armed separatist group ETA, saw its support drop sharply, from 14 seats to seven.
The Popular Party of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, vehemently opposed to Basque independence, won 19 seats and the Socialist Party, also against secession, took 13, the commission said. This gives the parties a combined two-seat increase over the 30 seats they held previously.
Turnout was a record 78%.
The election for the regional parliament was seen as one of the most important since the tiny, three-province region achieved partial autonomy in 1979 following the end of Spain's dictatorship.
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