RESTIVE REGIONS

Basque premier rules out early elections after PP pullout from ruling pact

Catalan nationalists to tell Europe that Rajoy doesn't have right to control Spain's regions

Basque premier Patxi López has ruled out calling early elections or asking regional lawmakers for a vote of confidence any time before the summer after the Popular Party (PP) on Monday announced that it will pull out of their three-year governing partnership.

Antonio Basagoiti, leader of the Basque PP, said that it was inevitable that the partnership would break after López had announced that he may challenge Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's budget cuts - especially in health and education - before the Constitutional Court because they could violate the regional autonomy statutes.

"He is proposing things that the PP cannot accept," Basagoiti said in a radio interview. "It is not normal" for the Basque government "to put forward initiatives that injure those who support" the budget cuts, he added.

In Catalonia, Rajoy's plans were facing similar threats from the ruling Catalan CiU nationalist bloc.

CiU members say they are prepared to appeal to the European Union to argue that the prime minister under Spanish law doesn't have absolute control over the regions to dictate where budget cuts should be made.

The government of Artur Mas is expected on Tuesday to approve a set of resolutions that could also include challenges before the court.

In Bilbao, López is expected to respond to Basagoiti's announcement today. But in a short statement issued on Monday the Basque Socialist government said that there are no plans to call early elections at this point. Sources add that López is prepared to launch a full attack against Rajoy's proposed cuts.

The break in the Socialist-PP pact comes before the Basque PP will hold its convention this weekend in Bilbao.

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