Nationalist 'lead' in Basque poll

Nationalist 'lead' in Basque poll

Turnout in the Basque Country was similar to that in the last election
Nationalists are ahead in regional elections in Spain's northern Basque region, exit polls suggest.
Spain's ruling Socialists had hoped to become the first non-nationalist party to form the Basque regional cabinet.
In the north-western Galicia region, their coalition with nationalists faces a strong challenge from the opposition Popular Party.
The polls are the first political test for Spain since it slid into recession last year.
The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) took between 30 and 32 seats in the 75-seat Basque parliament while the Socialists had between 26 and 28 seats, according to an exit poll for Spanish TV.
In Galicia, the Popular Party won between 36 and 38 seats while the Socialists had between 25 and 27, and between 11 and 13 went to the Galician Nationalist Bloc (BNG), another TV exit poll suggests.
But with counting still in progress, it is too early for any party to celebrate victory, the BBC's Steve Kingstone reports from Spain.
Bomb alert
The Socialists had been focusing their campaign on the economy rather than issues of national identity.
More than four million people were eligible to elect the regional parliaments in Galicia and the Basque Country.
Hours before polls opened, the Basque police arrested a suspected member of the militant group Eta, who was believed to have been planning an imminent attack.
The 24-year-old had been under surveillance.
Officers later found what has been described as "bomb-making equipment" in an apartment in the town of Hernani, our correspondent says.
Eta had called the Basque election "anti-democratic" following a decision by Spain's Supreme Court to ban two separatist parties from fielding candidates.
Job concerns
In the Basque Country, the PNV has been in power since Spain returned to democracy three decades ago.

What kind of unemployment do people prefer, 8%, as we have here, or 14%, as they have in Madrid?
Miren Azkarate
Basque Nationalist spokeswoman

Analysis: Basque race wide open
The party has sought to loosen constitutional ties with the central government in Madrid and assert the rights of Basques to decide their own political future.
However, the Socialist Party of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had been seeking to score a historic victory in the region.
With the country in recession, polls suggested that Basques were more concerned about jobs than legalistic arguments about sovereignty, our correspondent says.
The Socialists portrayed the leader of the current Basque government, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, as out of touch with real issues.
The PNV rejected the claims, saying that the Basque economy was doing so much better that the rest of Spain.
Unemployment is lower in the region than the national average, and Basque incomes are among the highest in Spain, our correspondent says.
The outlawed parties, D3M and Askatasuna, were barred from fielding candidates earlier this month by Spain's supreme court, after prosecutors accused them of links to Eta militants.
Eta is blamed for more than 800 deaths in a 40-year campaign for an independent Basque homeland.

Source:bbc