The Straits Times
Published on Oct 21, 2012

Spain holds elections in Galicia, Basque region


MADRID (AP) - Two northern regions in Spain are holding elections for their legislatures on Sunday in the first popular test of the central government's stringent austerity policies since it came to power late last year.

A deepening financial crisis and how best to address the nation's separatist tensions are the main issues facing political leaders and voters in the turbulent Basque region and in north-western Galicia.

With 2.7 million voters, Galicia is a traditional stronghold of the ruling Popular Party (PP) and the homeland of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, so an upset there would rock the PP regionally and nationally.

Spain is in its second recession in three years and has near 25 per cent unemployment. Since being voted to office in general elections in November, Mr Rajoy has been forced to hike taxes, cut spending and introduce stinging labour reforms in a bid to persuade investors and international authorities that Spain can manage its finances without the need for a full-blown bailout.