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General election called

November 20, 2011 - SPAIN

Spain's election for both houses of its parliament was due in March, but brought forward to Nov 20 to ease uncertainty caused by a precipitous economic downturn and Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's announcement that he won't be standing for a third term. The Socialists are probably doomed unless the economy turns around. The election pits Socialist candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba against center-right Popular Party candidate Mariano Rajoy. Campaigning began Nov 2.

Spain's election for both houses of its parliament was due in March, but brought forward to Nov 20 to ease uncertainty caused by a precipitous economic downturn and Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's announcement that he won't be standing for a third term. The Socialists are probably doomed unless the economy turns around. The election pits Socialist candidate Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba against center-right Popular Party candidate Mariano Rajoy. Campaigning began Nov 2. One in five Spaniards is unemployed - the eurozone's highest rate - and analysts predict slow growth. Rubalcaba is deputy prime minister, interior minister and government spokesman. Boom turned to bust in the eurozone's fourth-largest economy, starting in 2008 amid the global financial crisis. It hit Spain particularly hard. To prevent Spain from plunging into a fiscal crisis and following Greece, Ireland and Portugal in seeking a European Union bailout, Zapatero cut public wages 5 per cent, reduced pensions and benefits and pushed labor-market reforms that made it cheaper for companies to fire workers. Those measures prompted the first general strike in eight years and sent his and his party's popularity plummeting. Other unpopular moves to shore up public finances include raising the retirement age and putting the national lottery on the auction block.

Socialist tries to gain points in Spanish election debate (Reuters 7 Nov 2011)