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Spain Ruling Party Suffers Heavy Losses In Elections

Spain's ruling Socialists have been hit with defeat in municipal and regional elections, amid voter discontent over high unemployment and economic stagnation.

With almost all of the May 22 vote counted, results showed the opposition conservative Popular Party winning more than 37 percent of the overall vote, against nearly 28 percent for Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialists.

The results show the Popular Party heading to victory in the 13 regional government elections that were contested.

Reports say the results put the Popular Party in a strong position to do well in Spain's general elections next year.

Thousands of Spaniards dissatisfied with Zapatero government's handling of the economic crisis had taken part in protests in the week ahead of the vote.

Spain has been struggling with an unemployment rate of 21 percent, the highest in the industrialized world.

compiled from agency reports