Spain dissolves parliament ahead of general election
Spain dissolved parliament on Monday and officially set November 20 as the date for an early general election which polls predict the ruling Socialists will lose by a wide margin.
Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who announced last year that he would not seek a third term, said he had no plans to remain in politics after the election.
"A stage is coming to an end, and that stage puts an end to my political activity," he told a news conference after his cabinet passed a decree to dissolve parliament and convene the early election.
Zapatero, 51, announced at the end of July that the next general election, originally slated for March 2012, would be brought forward by four months to November 20.
His popularity has plunged as the unemployment rate soared to around 21 percent, the highest in the developed world, following the collapse of a labour-intensive property boom in 2008.
Zapatero's government has also had to adopt unpopular austerity measures such as cuts to civil servant wages to rein in Spain's public deficit and calm market fears that the country will need a financial bailout.
The conservative opposition Popular Party would capture an absolute majority in parliament while the Socialists would score the worst results in their history if an election were held now, a poll published Monday in Catalan daily El Periodico showed.
The survey put support for the Socialists, in power since 2004, at 31.4 percent while the Popular Party has 46.1 percent support.
Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy, 56, who lost twice to Zapatero, in 2004 and 2008, has vowed to lower taxes on businesses to revive the economy and fight unemployment if he is elected.
The Socialist candidate for prime minister in the elections, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, who served as interior minister and deputy prime minister under Zapatero, has promised to protect education and health care from spending cuts.
The official election campaign period will be between November 4 and 18.
© 2011 AFP