Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy has signed a decree formally dissolving parliament and calling a general election for December 20.
Mr Rajoy used the occasion to do some campaigning by praising his government’s handling of the severe economic crisis.
He said he had fulfilled a promise made on taking office in 2011 by reducing sky-high unemployment and spurring economic growth.
Mr Rajoy said the country had gone from being threatened with needing a bailout to one of full confidence among investors and from record unemployment to a situation of job creation.
The ruling Popular Party is hoping the recovery will boost its electoral fortunes but polls indicate his conservative Popular Party is almost tied with the leading opposition Socialist party and could lose its parliamentary majority.