Spain: Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero not to stand again

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (2 April 2011) Mr Zapatero said speculation about his future was distracting the government from its main tasks

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Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has said he will not seek a third term in office after parliamentary elections due next year.

Mr Zapatero, whose popularity is at an all-time low, said it was the right decision for the country, his centre-left Socialist party and his family.

He became Prime Minister in 2004 in the wake of the Madrid train bombings.

Spain's economy was booming then. It has since suffered a deep recession, and unemployment is at 20%.

Ending speculation

Mr Zapatero said he would stand down as party leader when a successor had been chosen.

That process - through a series of 'primaries' - will begin after local elections on 22 May.

The Socialists are currently 15% behind the right of centre Popular Party in the polls and are expected to suffer heavy losses.

Mr Zapatero said he was making his position clear now, a year ahead of parliamentary elections, in order to end the uncertainty and speculation over his future.

That was distracting the government from its main tasks, he said: lifting Spain out of recession and creating jobs.

The BBC's Sarah Rainsford, in Madrid, says Mr Zapatero's party will be hoping his announcement gives them a boost at the local elections.

But it also leaves a good deal of uncertainty, our correspondent says - the kind of "distraction" the PM said he was trying to avoid.

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