Spain's leadership latest victims of Europe's debt crisis
Spain's socialists look set Sunday to become the latest victims of Europe's festering debt crisis after the fall of governments in Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Italy, all caught up in the economic turmoil.
Prime minister Brian Cowen was the first victim of the crisis when his Fianna Fail party, which dominated political life for 80 years, lost a general election.
Cowen was replaced by Enda Kenny, of the conservative Fine Gael, who runs a coalition government that some months later was offered better repayment terms on a 2010 rescue package that many Irish took as a blow to national pride.
Prime minister Jose Socrates resigned in March after parliament rejected a fourth austerity package in less than a year.
After conservatives won June elections, new Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho urged the country to have the courage to face up to more belt-tightening.
Socialist prime minister George Papandreou decided to step down after striking a deal with the opposition to set up a national unity government and hold early elections on February 19, 2012.
Papandreou, 59, faced fierce resistance to efforts to implement austerity measures demanded in return for fresh international loans to save Greece from bankruptcy.
In the end it was pressure from the markets and an unsustainable increase in the rate on Italy's 10-year government bonds that did for prime minister Silvio Berlusconi -- not the allegations over sex scandals and corruption.
Berlusconi, 75, finally resigned on November 12, once parliament had adopted the austerity measures required by international lenders and the markets. Former European commissioner Mario Monti, 68, has taken the helm of a government of technocrats.
Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, facing a groundswell of discontent over successive austerity packages, last summer decided to bring forward by four months elections scheduled for March 2012.
He is not running for a third term in Sunday's general election which opinion polls suggest will see Mariano Rajoy, the 56-year-old leader of the opposition right-wing Popular Party, lead his party to a landslide victory.
ELSEWHERE in the embattled euro area, leaders are facing growing discontent, notably French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has yet to declare his candidacy for 2012 elections.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel now must take key decisions on the debt crisis to parliament. And she faces growing pressure from those of her party colleagues who do not want Germany literally paying for the mistakes of its less economically rigorous European partners.
© 2011 AFP