Spain’s socialist government has dissolved parliament and formally called a general election for March the 9th.
Opinion polls indicate that that the Socialists, led by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, have a slim lead over the opposition conservatives headed by Mariano Rajoy.
Zapatero said: “This has been a legislature of reforms, changes and progress for the country. The mandate ends today and we believe we have achieved our aims.”
The election is expected to be tight with Rajoy considered a safe pair of hands when it comes to the economy and dealing with Basque seperatist group ETA.
The secretary general of Rajoy’s Popular Party, Angel Acebes said:
“Zapatero’s decision to hold talks with ETA ended in failure and his poor economic management has meant less for workers and their families.”
Zapatero was elected in March 2004 after his party defeated a conservative government in disarray after the Madrid train bombings by Muslim extremists that left 191 people dead and injured more than 1,800.
The formal campaign runs for two weeks before the poll, but the parties have been campaigning for months.