Spain's ruling Socialists may call early elections

13th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's economic crisis and political instability could push the ruling Socialist Party into calling elections four months early in November, Spanish media said Monday.

Senior party officials and members of the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero are preparing for such a scenario, the newspapers El Pais and El Mundo said.

But the final decision will be up to Zapatero, El Mundo said.

The prime minister has said repeatedly he does not intend to move forward the elections, scheduled for March 2012, because he wants to see through reforms to the battered economy.

The main opposition, the conservative Popular Party, has been pushing for early elections since its crushing victory over the Socialists in regional and municipal polls on May 22.

A Socialist party heavyweight and the outgoing president of the regional government of Castilla-La Mancha, Jose Maria Barreda, said Monday early elections may be appropriate.

"If the situation continues to be as extraordinarily complicated as it is then bringing forward the elections may be advisable," said Barreda, who was beaten by the PP in the May elections.

The centre-left El Pais daily said the combination of an economic crisis, instability in parliament, social unease and declining support for Zapatero could force November elections.

Unemployment, the highest in the industrialised world at more than 21 percent in the first quarter of 2011, traditionally falls in the summer due to seasonal work contracts, which could give the Socialists a boost.

But other arguments back the holding of elections in March, including the government's determination to move forward with its economic reforms and a need to let as much time pass as possible following the rout in local elections.

If elections are scheduled for November, there is unlikely to be an announcement before September. Until then, Zapatero will continue to affirm that he intends to see out his mandate, said El Pais.

A government source said the prime minister was determined to carry out his mandate.

"Nothing has changed, the idea is to finish the legislature so he can best carry out the reforms underway," said the source, re-affirming that elections are planned for March 2012.

Zapatero, who was first elected in March 2004, announced in April he would not seek a third term.

He heads a minority government that must seek the support of smaller parties in order to pass legislation.

Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, 59, one of the most powerful figures in the government, is in line to replace him as the party's candidate to face PP leader Mariano Rajoy.

© 2011 AFP

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