Premier Mariano Rajoy scored a victory in his electoral bastion of Galicia and the tides of independence rose in the Basque country, according to exit polls at elections held in the two regions on Sunday.
In what was a first test for the prime minister and his management of the crisis, his People's Party won an absolute majority of 39-42 seats out of a total 75 in the Galician parliament, against the 38 gained in 2009, according to IPSOS-TVG exit polls. In the Basque Autonomous Community, Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) chairman Inigo Urkullu and his independence-minded cohorts ousted the ruling socialists (PSE) to gain 24-27 seats out of the 75-seat parliament, according to Basque public broadcaster EITB. A year after Basque separatist terrorist organization ETA gave up arms, separatists from EH Bildu, heirs to the now outlawed Batasuna party, won 23-26 seats, positioning themselves as the region's second political force.
Together, PNV and Bildu now rule 60% of parliament, which political analysts say is a potential thorn in the side of Rajoy a month ahead of early elections in Catalonia, where the clarion call of secession has been sounding loud and clear since failed talks on a so-called fiscal pact between region and center. And in fact, Urkullu and Catalan president Artur Mas have agreed on a road map to independence, to be gained by 2015.
The PP victory in Galicia comes at a crucial moment, with the premier facing what will be the second general strike in his 10 months in office on November 14, possible new ''blood and tears'' austerity measures, and an ever-nearing EU bailout. Exit polls in Galicia confirmed voters do not consider socialists, other leftists, or Galician nationalists as credible alternatives in the current economic crisis, with the socialists gaining 18-20 seats, nationalists at 7-10, and leftist-separatists from Galician Left Alternative (AGE) winning 8-10 seats.