After almost a year in office, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy faces his first voter test today with elections in two autonomous regions.
Rajoy’s home province of Galicia is a traditional stronghold for his centre-right Popular Party.
But voters may decide to punish Madrid as the effects of the financial crisis continue to shrink living standards.
Many voters expect unemployment, which is lower than the 25 percent national average, to rise further.
“Above all, I feel deceived. There is nothing, there are no jobs and it’s getting worse. Everything is more expensive. I’m actively searching for work. I look everywhere but there’s nothing,” said jobless Sandra Silva Fernandez.
Voters in the troubled Basque Country also head to the polls a year after the terrorist group ETA announced an end to its 45-year campaign of terror.
Separatist candidates look likely to make the biggest gains as voters denounce policies of deep austerity.
Josune Gorospe from the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) thinks “a whole new scenario has emerged which offers fresh opportunities, both for stability and peace; and it allows other areas, for example the economy, to rebound”.
More than 800 people were killed during ETA’s violent struggle which involved more than 3,300 attacks. Around 2,000 others were injured.
The group called a permanent ceasefire and ended its armed campaign last year.