Spain begins the official period of campaigning Friday for general elections later this month amid a sluggish economy and high unemployment.
Outgoing Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero called early elections and dissolved parliament in September.
Opinion polls show that the leader of the right wing Popular Party, Mariano Rajoy, has the lead of about 15 percent over the ruling Socialists ahead of the November 20 vote.
The Socialist Party candidate, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, has the challenging task of defending the government’s record.
Spain’s economy was hard hit by the global financial crisis of 2008. Its unemployment soared to more than 21 percent — one in five people — in the third quarter of this year.
Resentment over the economic crisis has boiled over into an “indignant” national protest movement. Participants helped the Popular Party crush the Socialists in local and regional polls in May.
Madrid also has to pay higher borrowing rates due to a loss of investors’ confidence. After Greece and Italy, Spain is the most vulnerable to the eurozone crisis.
Rubalcaba, who is leading the campaign for the Socialist Party after Prime Minister Zapatero bowed out, put a brave face on his prospects against his conservative rival.
He said in a televised interview that “at the moment, it would be easier for Madrid to beat Barcelona ” than for him to overcome Rajoy.