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Spanish PM Will Not Seek 3rd Term

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, right, Vice-secretary of PSOE party Jose Blanco, center, and PSOE Organization Secretary Marcelino Iglesias, left, are seen before a meeting with party members in Madrid, April 2, 2011

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has announced he will not seek a third term in office in the country's general elections in 2012.

Zapatero told members of his Socialist party at a meeting in Madrid Saturday to open the party's primary process to elect his successor.

Two members of the prime minister's Cabinet are seen as the top choices to replace him as the party's leader. Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba is seen as the front runner, while Defense Minister Carme Chacon, Spain's first female defense minister, is also a possible successor.

The Socialist party has been slumping in opinion polls, and is expected to suffer heavy losses in next year's general elections, causing speculation that Zapatero might step down.

The prime minister has been under pressure to get Spain's faltering economy back on track and reduce the nation's 20.3 percent unemployment rate.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.