Sat, Jun 02, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Socialist leader to govern Spain after no-confidence vote

SELF-GOVERNANCE:In a nod to a group that supported the motion, a new Catalan Cabinet is today to regain control of the region after seven months of Madrid rule

AP, MADRID

Podemos party leader Pablo Iglesias, left, embraces Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez following a no-confidence vote in Madrid yesterday.

Photo: Bloomberg

Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party secretary-general Pedro Sanchez is to become Spain’s new prime minister after a no-confidence vote yesterday in parliament unseated Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative government.

Sanchez came in vowing to address the “social emergencies” of the nation’s citizens after years of austerity measures.

Sanchez could be sworn in by King Felipe VI as early as today and is to appoint his Cabinet over the coming days.

On the domestic front, Sanchez is to head a minority government that would need to negotiate potentially difficult deals with other parties to get its legislation passed.

To prevent a power vacuum after a no-confidence motion, Spanish law makes the motion’s author — in this case, Sanchez — the nation’s new leader as soon as the king swears him in.

The end of Rajoy’s more than six-year reign as prime minister was the first ouster of a serving leader by parliament in Spain’s four decades of democracy.

It also was a rare success for a center-left party in Europe in recent times. Sanchez and his party are staunch supporters of the EU and the euro.

In a brief speech before the vote, Rajoy told lawmakers: “It has been an honor to leave Spain better than I found it.”

The reputation of Rajoy’s Popular Party was badly damaged by a court verdict last week that identified it as a beneficiary of a large kickbacks-for-contracts scheme.

Sanchez saw that as his opening and managed to muster enough support from smaller parties to send him to the Palace of Moncloa.

Sanchez, who is to be Spain’s seventh prime minister since its return to democracy in the late 1970s, arrives in power after a spectacular turnaround in his political fortunes. He was ousted by his own party in 2016 over back-to-back losses in general elections and after he tried to block Rajoy’s bid to form a government.

The incoming prime minister said his priorities are to be social issues, including more measures to help young people and the elderly.

He told reporters yesterday that he was “aware of the responsibility and the complex political moment of our country.”

He vowed to build consensus among political parties to “transform and modernize” Spain and “address the social urgencies of many people who suffer precariousness and inequality.”

He has promised to call a new election before the end of this term in 2020.

Still, Sanchez is to face a tough time catering to demands from the small parties whose votes he captured in the no-confidence motion, among them Catalan separatists.

A new Catalan Cabinet is scheduled to regain the region’s self-government today, ending a seven-month takeover by Madrid authorities over the separatists’ bid to secede from Spain.

In a reversal from Rajoy’s aversion to Catalonia’s aspirations for greater autonomy, Sanchez has promised to open a dialogue with new Catalan President Quim Torra, despite having called his comments “xenophobic.”

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