Spanish Socialists Call Early Elections for June

United Press International

The Socialist government said Monday that it will hold general elections five months ahead of schedule in an apparent attempt to capitalize on the public’s endorsement in a recent referendum of its call for Spain’s continued membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez asked King Juan Carlos I to sign a decree dissolving the 350-member Parliament, the Cortes, on Wednesday, and Deputy Prime Minister Alfonso Guerra said the election will be held June 22.

The term of the Socialists--who won a landslide victory in 1982 to become the first leftist government to rule Spain in 46 years--ends in November, and the party’s popularity has been slipping recently.

Political analysts said the government advanced the date to try to maintain the momentum of its victory in the March 12 referendum. They also suggested the Socialists want to prevent an erosion of their popularity caused by unease over possible Libyan-related terrorism.


Slipping in the Polls

The Socialists won support for Spain’s remaining in NATO with 52.5% of the vote in favor and 39.8% against. Opinion polls in March also showed the Socialists’ popularity slipping and a slight gain for the conservative opposition Popular Alliance Party.

A poll in the leading weekly magazine Cambio 16 in early March showed the Socialists winning with 40.7% of the vote and 29.7% for the Popular Alliance.

Spain has been targeted for retaliation by Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi, and political commentators predicted that Libya-related violence in the summer would give votes to the conservative opposition’s call for a stronger stand against terrorism.


Commentators also suggested that an early election call could keep the Socialists from losing votes over the rise in the cost of living that followed Spain’s entry into the European Communities on Jan. 1.

In January, prices rose 2% and unemployment stood at 21%, the highest jobless rate in Europe.

The elections will be the fourth since Spain’s return to democracy after the death of Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975.