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Votes give Spanish leader new clout, new problems

MADRID -- Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy emerged Monday with new clout after his party won a landslide in his home region of Galicia despite a deep recession and cutbacks.

Voters in Galicia strengthened Rajoy's hand on Sunday at a critical time as he weighed if and when to seek a eurozone rescue line to save the nation from a runaway public debt.

Far from being punished in Sunday's regional vote, Rajoy's right-leaning Popular Party boosted its absolute majority from 38 to 41 seats of the 75-seat Galician parliament.

“Galicia saves Rajoy,” headlined the Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia, arguing that the region had given the bearded, 57-year-old leader a new breath of life.

But the prime minister's problems grew, too, as separatist forces aiming to break Spain apart gained ground in a regional election held the same day in the northern Basque country.

The vote in the Basque Country gave power to nationalist and separatist forces and left Spain's two major parties, the Popular Party and the Socialists, in the dust.

Separatist forces are surging, too, in the northeastern region of Catalonia, which goes to the polls on Nov. 25.

“Five weeks from the Catalan elections, with a nationalist challenge on the table, Rajoy should learn the lessons which go far beyond the results of the regional elections,” said the leading daily El Pais.

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