(Releads, adds first official results)

HASH(0xa169670)

The conservative Popular Party, or PP, expanded its absolute legislative majority in the regional elections held Sunday in Galicia, a region in northwestern Spain, and the Basque Nationalist Party, or PNV, won the vote in the Basque region, exit polls show.

The PP won 41 seats in the 75-member regional legislature, with 47 percent of the votes counted.

The Socialist Party, which held 25 seats, will have only 18 seats.

In the Basque region, the PNV won 27 seats in the 75-member regional legislature, while the pro-independence EH Bildu party won 21 seats, with 77 percent of the ballots counted.

The Basque Socialist Party, which had been governing the region, will go from having 25 seats to only 16, while the PP, which had 13 seats, will have 10.

Basques voted in the first regional elections free of the threat of violence from the terrorist group ETA, which declared a definitive cease-fire last year.

The PP's victory in Galicia will allow it to retain power in the region, and the party will govern 11 of the 17 autonomous communities in Spain.

The elections in the Basque region and Galicia were the first held in Spain since the Nov. 20, 2011, general elections gave the PP an absolute majority in Parliament.

Nearly 2.7 million people, including 400,000 living abroad, were eligible to vote in Galicia, while 1.7 million people were eligible to vote in the Basque region.

The elections in Galicia, a traditional stronghold of the PP, were seen by analysts as a test of support for Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who had to implement big spending cuts to meet European Union demands for a reduction in the public sector deficit to 6.3 percent of the gross domestic product this year.

The campaigns in the two regions focused on local issues and the effects of the economic crisis, but they were also influenced by the political debate started by Artur Mas, the nationalist leader of the government in the northeast region of Catalonia.

Mas moved up the regional elections by two years to Nov. 25 and has threatened to hold a referendum to allow the people of Catalonia to decide whether to remain part of Spain. EFE