MADRID (AP) — Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Monday signed a decree formally dissolving Parliament and calling general elections Dec. 20, using the occasion to do some campaigning by praising his government's handling of the severe economic crisis.
Rajoy said he had fulfilled a promise made on taking office in 2011 by reducing sky-high unemployment and spurring economic growth.
He says the country had gone from being threatened with needing a bailout to one of full confidence among investors and from record unemployment to a situation of job creation.
The ruling Popular Party hopes the recovery will boost its electoral fortunes but polls indicate the party is running neck and neck with the opposition Socialist party and could lose its parliamentary majority.
The polls indicate one of the two main parties will have to do a deal with one of the two newcomers, the centrist Ciudadanos (Citizens) party or the far-left Podemos (We Can) group.
Spain's unemployment rate dropped in the third quarter to 21.2 percent, just below the 23.4 percent rate prevailing when Rajoy took office.
Unemployment rocketed in Spain after the 2008 global financial crisis but the economy started growing solidly last year.
The country is now the European Union's leading job creator, although its unemployment rate is the second highest in the 28-country bloc after Greece. It is also has one of the fastest growing economies, with a year-on-year rate in the third quarter of 3.4 percent.