The socialist Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, says he will not seek a third term in the country’s general election next year.
Spain is in the midst of a deep recession. At 20% it has the highest unemployment rate in the eurozone.
Zapatero’s popularity plunged after imosing spending cuts and labour reform to keep Spain from falling into a fiscal crisis.
“When I was elected as Prime Minister in 2004, I thought that two periods was the reasonable time to be at the frontline in charge of the destiny of the country, two periods, eight years, no more”.
Zapatero’s announcement at his party’s annual conference, comes just seven weeks before the local and regional elections in May. It is thought the timing of his decision could boost the party’s chances at the polls. Other analysts say it could provoke a period of uncertainty.
The socialists now have to choose a new leader, which will be up to the party’s Federal Committee.
One possible contender is the popular Deputy Prime Minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, whose experience will go in his favour.
Another is the Defence Minister, Carme Chacon.
Whoever is chosen will face an uphill struggle to revive both the party’s popularity, as well as the economy.