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spanish general election

Five million Spaniards are unemployed. And it is that figure that has perhaps the biggest influence on Spain's elections on November 20. Bad news dominates the electoral campaign: on top of a 21.5% unemployment rate - the EU's highest - the Bank of Spain is forecasting zero economic growth for the third quarter of the year. And with the spectre of a harsh austerity plan looming large, the economic outlook for 2012 remains bleak.

The fall-out from the economic crisis and the feeling that ordinary citizens - and not the rich - are paying the price, has fuelled widespread social discontent and a degree of mistrust towards the main parties. The "Indignados", similar to the Occupy Movement in other parts of the world, lists among its demands electoral reforms that will give a louder voice to smaller parties which absent from parliament. The protesters are threatening to defy a ban on demonstrations in Madrid on the eve of the vote.

Over the last few weeks, the conservative opposition People's Party (PP) has forged an opinion poll lead over the governing Socialists. For many observers, the best-case scenario for the Socialist Party (PSOE) would be to deprive the PP of a majority in parliament.

The recent announcement by Basque group ETA that it was definitively laying down its arms has been a rare piece of good news in an otherwise downbeat campaign.