SPAIN’S PRIME MINISTER dissolved the country’s parliament today – four months earlier than required – setting the stage for a 20 November general election that is likely to focus on an economy saddled with 21 per cent unemployment, anemic growth and gloomy future prospects.
It is widely expected to that the move will bring in a new government, led by the conservative opposition Popular Party.
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will not seek re-election after having having served two terms, spanning nearly eight years. He announced this in July, as well as the date for early election in November.
Today, Zapaterosigned a decree dissolving the legislature and informing King Juan Carlos.
Besides its unemployment woes and sluggish growth, Spain’s borrowing costs are soaring as its economy struggles to shake off the outcome of a burst real estate bubble, raising periodic fears it might have to join eurozone partners Greece, Ireland and Portugal in needing an international bailout.
Zapatero has introduced deeply unpopular austerity measures, which have caused even his party’s traditional support base turn away, reports BusinessWeek. Opinion polls are giving the opposition a record lead.
Zapatero did not have to call elections until March, but he has moved them up in a bid to cut his Socialist party’s losses, although the stated reason is he wants a new government to have a fresh slate for budgetary and other economic decisions when the new year starts.
Zapatero, under intense pressure from the EU, the United States and international institutions, has taken a bevy of austerity measures such as extending the retirement age, freezing civil servant wages and amending the constitution to force future governments to keep their deficits very low.
He said Monday that from now to 20 November he does not expect to have to adopt any significant economic measures, “but if it were necessary, I would.”
He also expressed confidence in Spain’s future, despite the hard times. “I know that sooner rather than later we will overcome the current difficulties,” he told reporters.
Although Spain’s[ parliament is officially dissolved, emergency measure can be introduced by a permanent legislative committee if further eurozone problems raise their heads, Reuters reports.
Additional reporting by the AP