Spain to hold general elections on 14 March

Spain will hold parliamentary elections on 14 March. Jose Maria Aznar, whose centre-right Popular Party has ruled Spain since 1996, will not be standing for reelection.

Spain has announced that it will be hold general elections on 14 March 2004. Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, will not be running for re-election, having chosen his deputy, Mariano Rajoy, as the Popular Party's candidate. The Popular Party [Partido Popular], which won an absolute majority in the last general election in 2000, has a lead of between two and 11 percentage points over the Socialists [PSOE], according to recent opinion polls.

During his term of office, Jose Maria Aznar has aligned Spain closely with the United States, backing Washington on Iraq and sending peacekeepers even though a vast majority of Spaniards opposed the war.

The Socialists' candidate is Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, a 43-year-old lawyer. He said that Aznar had blindly followed the United States and deepened European divisions over the war in Iraq, including damaging Spain's ties with France and Germany. "Spain is now more alone than ever. The Popular Party opted for blind support of the United States, or rather, of the Bush administration, at the cost of weakening Spain's link with Europe," Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said. The Spanish Socialists are reported to back the further integration of Europe so that it can act as a counterweight to the US.


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