Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has confirmed that Spain’s forthcoming general election will be held on 20 December. Rajoy, who announced the date in an interview with Antena 3 television, enjoys an absolute majority in parliament with his centre-right Partido Popular (PP), but opinion polls suggest support for the opposition Socialist Party is running close behind.

Left-wing party Podemos, which wants to loosen the grip of austerity introduced by Rajoy’s government since it came to power in 2011, is running in third place. If the Socialists and Podemos teamed up in a coalition, they could boot the PP from power, surveys suggest.

Rejecting an alternative proposal to hold the vote earlier in December, Rajoy said: “We will now have a margin in which to install the parliament after the holidays.”