Spain will hold general elections four months early, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said Friday.

Facing an economic crisis, Zapatero hopes that a new government will "prortect [the] political and economic" future of Spain.

The country -- like Greece, Ireland and Portugal -- is massively in debt, with unemployment rising to 20 percent -- the highest jobless rate in Europe, with nearly 50 percent of young Spaniards are out of work.

Ratings agency Moody's said Friday that it is reviewing Spain's deficit, and may lower the nation's Aa2 credit rating by at least one degree.

"I want a new government to take control of the economy from January 1st next year," said Zapatero.

"It is convenient to hold elections this fall so a new government can take charge of the economy in 2012, fresh from the balloting."

The Socialist Party politician said earlier this year that he will not seek re-election. The probable party front runner for the position is Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, Zapatero's former Interior Minister.

Zapatero's party lost a number of seats in local and regional elections in May, and political analysts in Spain think that the opposition Popular Party (PP) will take the ministerial election.

"This is good news because it's what most Spaniards want," PP's Mariano Rajoy said at a news conference, referring to the new vote.

The elections will be "the necessary impetus for Spain to emerge from the crisis that we are in," Rajoy added.

The PP leads in the polls by seven points, although the Socialists are closing the gap. In April, the opposition party was ahead by 10 points.

International lenders fear a Greek-like crisis in Spain, and want to raise their lending rates before Spain needs an economic bail-out from institutions like the International Monetary Fund or the European Union.  

Zapareto has proposed a number of austerity cuts to save money and reassure creditors, but they have been met with anger by the Spanish people.

Protests erupted in Madrid and elsewhere in Spain before the May elections. Spanish citizens, angered about the unemployment rate, equated the national debt to embezzlement perpetrated by the government.