PRIME Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero will not fight a third general election.
With the recession deepening and trailing in opinion polls, the socialist leader told a press conference on Saturday that it was time to hand over the leadership of his PSOE party to someone else.
In a live annoucement he said: “I will not be a candidate in the next general elections,” before admitting that he had ‘made mistakes’.
He said it had been particularly hard this year because after enacting a budget austerity plan to reduce the public deficit due to pressure from international financial markets, the destruction of jobs has continued.
The unemployment rate is still over 20 percent (4.6m) and the highest in the European Union.
Local elections held on May 22 are expected to be a test of whether support for the PSOE has fatally waned.
Opposition leaders have called for Zapatero to step down due to the nation’s economic crisis, and even some in his own Socialist party have expressed doubts about his leadership.
Zapatero was first elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2008.
The man named then as deputy prime minister, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, is now widely seen by Spanish analysts as a potential successor.
He would likely be challenged by the popular defence minister Carme Chacon.