The Basque Country bucked the national trend and saw higher voter turnout than in 2008. At 6.15pm on Sunday, participation was 55.99 percent, according to the Interior Ministry, compared with 53.42 percent in 2008. One possible explanation is that radical pro-independence leftwing parties were barred from running in 2008, with sympathizers asked to abstain from voting as a sign of protest. This year, a coalition known as Amaiur is widely expected to gain a significant foothold in Congress.
But what regional leaders underscored, beyond the turnout figures, is the fact that these are the first elections in a Basque Country officially free of the terrorist threat from ETA, which announced a "definitive" end to violence a month ago. "Today we can say that Euskadi is celebrating the great feast of democracy, because it's the first time we have held elections in absolute freedom," said Socialist regional premier Patxi López.