The four key players in Spain's general elections
For the first time in modern Spanish history, four main party leaders are vying for the vote in general elections Sunday -- not just the usual Socialists and Conservatives -- after the emergence of brand new political forces.
The 60-year-old incumbent conservative Prime minister is asking Spaniards to re-elect him, positioning himself as the safe pairs of hands who dragged the country away from economic collapse and put it on the path of recovery.
Elected in 2011, the Popular Party (PP) chief put in place a series of drastic, highly unpopular austerity measures but says "the worst of the crisis is over," promising to create "two million jobs" over the next four years.
Straight-laced, sedate -- even boring, some say -- Rajoy started out as a land registrar but quickly embraced politics, joining the Popular Alliance, the party founded by ministers of former dictator Francisco Franco which later became the PP.
Faced with rivals who are much younger than him, the grey-bearded, bespectacled PM from the conservative northwestern region of Galicia points to his 34 years in politics as a badge of experience.
He was only elected to head up and renovate the troubled Socialist party (PSOE) last year, but Pedro Sanchez would like to go further and win the general elections.
Nicknamed "El Guapo" ("Mr Handsome"), the 43-year-old economist from Madrid was unknown to the public two years ago, before rising to the head of the PSOE.
The Socialists were turfed out of power in a crushing November 2011 election defeat, seen as punishment for a recession, mushrooming debt and sky-high joblessness.
The former university basketball player has cultivated a down-to-earth image in his bid to turn around his party's flagging fortunes before the elections.
He has promised a "minimum living wage for families without resources" and to reinstate the rights of workers, immigrants, women -- and to health -- he says the PP has trampled on.
Known for his easy-going style, the pony-tailed Pablo Iglesias is the head of anti-austerity party Podemos, which rose to prominence two years ago on the back of huge discontent over spending cuts and tax rises.
The 37-year-old former politics professor was elected to the European Parliament last year, where he stayed for 14 months before devoting himself exclusively to the national general election.
A fervent critic of Brussels' austerity measures, he has also blasted repeated corruption scandals at the PP and Socialist party, and defends "the lower classes" for whom he wants "an emergency social plan."
His party -- an ally of Greece's radical ruling Syriza party-- vaunts the fact that mayors in the three major cities of Madrid, Barcelona and Cadiz all emerged from the "Indignados" movement against economic inequality and corruption.
He's the youngest of the four -- the head of centrist party Ciudadanos, which has experienced a spectacular rise in popularity due to its stance against corruption and independence in the region of Catalonia, where it hails from.
The 36-year-old lawyer from Barcelona has devoted the past eight years to politics.
A brilliant, telegenic orator and an adept of social media, he was a lawmaker in Catalonia's regional parliament between 2006 and 2015.
Promoting "reasonable change," his party -- which emerged in 2006 but only really burst into the mainstream this year -- is liberal on the economic and social front.
It wants to invest more in research and education, and create a single employment contract system to try and iron out differences between those in stable jobs and others in precarious positions.
© 2015 AFP