Thursday sees the official start of campaigning for Spain’s general election later this month against a background of chronic unemployment and an economy in the doldrums.
Mariano Rajoy, the leader of the right wing Popular Party, has a lead of around 15 per cent according to opinion polls.
The Socialist party candidate, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, has the challenging task of defending the government’s record.
The outgoing Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who is not running for a third term, called early elections and dissolved parliament in September.
Spain has witnessed a vast protest movement against social injustice and mainstream parties’ handling of the economy. It began in May when thousands of demonstrators known as “los indignados” (the indignant) took to the streets.
More than one in five is unemployed, almost one in two among young people.
Many protesters want electoral laws changed to give more say to smaller parties.