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Amaiur mounts fight for right to form group in parliament

Socialists and CiU abstain in vote to deny Basque radical coalition's petition

The Basque abertzale coalition Amaiur said Friday it would ask the Popular Party-led congressional steering commission to reconsider barring its seven deputies from forming a parliamentary group before taking its case to the Constitutional Court.

The PP said it would not allow Amaiur to form its own group because it only received 14.86 percent of the vote in Navarre, short of the necessary 15 percent under chamber rules.

After a tense debate late Thursday, the incoming PP government won its battle to keep the Basque radical abertzale left coalition from forming a parliamentary group. The seven Amaiur deputies who were elected on November 20 will take their seats in Congress but won't have the same powers as the PP and Socialists in helping set congressional agenda.

The PP based its decision to keep Amaiur out of the steering group of parties on a report by new speaker Jesús Posada. The report concludes the abertzale didn't win the required 15 percent of the vote in Navarre and Amaiur has postponed the swearing-in of the deputy who won the seat in that region.

Last week, outgoing Congress president José Bono said he turned over a report drafted by his own legal staff that said otherwise. The Posada report given to Socialists and the CiU representatives meeting Thursday night on the commission only contained the facts but wasn't backed up by legal precedent, sources said. The three Socialists on the steering commission asked that the vote to keep Amaiur from forming its own group be postponed until a more in-depth legal study could be carried out.

The PP rejected the Socialist request and, with its five votes on the commission, denied Amaiur's petition to form its own group. The Socialists and the one member from the CiU abstained in the voting.

With the decision, the PP is sending a direct message to the abertzale to publicly renounce violence and call for ETA to disband following the Basque terrorist group's announcement of a ceasefire back in September.

The Posada report is contradictory as it cites instances where Congress has been flexible in the past with other parties, including when the Catalan Republican Left (ERC) fielded a candidate in Valencia in 2004, but didn't win the necessary 15 percent.

Meanwhile, Rosa Diez's Unión Progreso y Democracía (UPyD) recruited Enrique Álvarez Sostres of Foro Asturias to join her in a coalition in order to gain the required minimal five percent national vote to form her group. The UPyD only garnered 4.69 percent on November 20.