Madrid. — Spain's conservative opposition is set for a decisive victory in regional elections on May 22, polls showed on Sunday, a sign of what may be in store for the weakened ruling Socialists in general elections next year.

Polls showed key Socialist councils like the Andalusian capital Seville and the central region of Castilla-La Mancha falling to the Popular Party (PP), undermining the minority government as it nears the end of its second term in office.

The government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, in power since 2004, has presided over the painful end of a debt-fuelled construction boom resulting in the country's worst recession since the 1936-1939 Civil War.

Strict austerity cuts aimed at fending off a debt crisis sweeping through the euro zone have made life even harder for Spaniards coping with the highest unemployment rate among developed countries and burdened with personal debt.

Prime Minister Zapatero has said he will not seek a third term in office.
The Socialist party is set to lose Barcelona, Spain's second biggest city, for the first time in 32 years, according to a poll carried out for left-leaning newspaper El Pais, with centre-right Catalonian party CiU taking power.

The Partido Popular will take the Socialist stronghold of Castilla-La Mancha by a margin of one seat, the poll by Metroscopia showed, after seven consecutive terms of Socialist party rule.

A poll carried out by right-leaning newspaper ABC showed a similar result.
Despite Zapatero having managed to protect Spain from a bail out and received praise from fellow EU leaders for having done so, he has failed to have impressed the electorate.