All change - Pedro Sánchez takes over as PM and chooses an innovative cabinet

Pedro Sánchez is sworn in as prime minister in front of King Felipe and outgoing PM Mariano Rajoy (right) . :: EFE
Pedro Sánchez is sworn in as prime minister in front of King Felipe and outgoing PM Mariano Rajoy (right) . :: EFE
  • The Socialist leader's appointments, most of whom are women, reflect his commitment to equal rights, the EU and Spanish unity, with several non-politicians joining his team

New prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has named a female- dominated cabinet with some innovative other choices in his first week in the job. Sánchez, leader of the PSOE Socialist party, dramatically ousted Mariano Rajoy of the Partido Popular (PP) in an MPs' no-confidence vote last Friday (1 June).

The PM and his new cabinet.

The PM and his new cabinet. / AFP

The no-confidence motion, tabled in reaction to corruption accusations and court sentences against former top PP members, had seemed unlikely to succeed at first.However the minority PSOE party was able to gather the votes of the fragmented smaller political groups to reach a majority of 180 MPs in favour versus 169 against.

Smaller parties vote for PSOE

The decision by the PNV Basque nationalist party to give its five MPs' votes to Sánchez was crucial as it had sided with the PP on a vote to pass the delayed 2018 national budget only a few days earlier. Only Ciudadanos maintained support for conservative leader.

Rajoy, who had decided not to stand down as PM ahead of the no-confidence vote, left the chamber immediately after last Friday's decision and wished Sánchez good luck. The new PM was sworn in by King Felipe on Saturday morning.

Sánchez, who is not currently an MP, promised in his address in parliament during the motion to lead a Socialist, supportive and pro-European government. He has promised to maintain the agreed national budget for 2018, a concession won by the PNV party in return for its support, and showed signs that he recognises the challenges of leading a government with just 84 MPs that will need to pact with several other parties in order to win each vote in Madrid's Congreso.

Minority government

Many commentators expressed doubts that the government can do much before the next general election in June 2020. Head of Ciudadanos, Albert Rivera, wished Pedro Sánchez good luck at the head of a “Frankenstein government”, which he said would be “weak”.

The defeat of Rajoy brought jubilation from left-wing parties and calls from Catalan separatist groups for urgent talks with Sánchez on the independence question and the fate of many of their leaders who are in jail or facing arrest.

A political comeback

Pedro Sánchez's appointment as PM came as a surprise to almost everyone. Not only did the no-confidence motion succeed where it had been expected to fail, but Sánchez, 46, had resigned the PSOE leadership in 2016 rather than help the PP party into power by having his party abstain in Rajoy's investiture debate, as his replacement went on to do. He then claimed the party crown again in 2017, beating the Andalusian regional president, Susana Díaz, to the top job despite almost all other senior PSOE members openly supporting Díaz's candidacy.

Sánchez, who is from a middle-class Madrid family and has been married to Begoña Gómez for 12 years, has two daughters, born in 2005 and 2007. He is a fan of basketball and is known for his support for more equality for women, the EU and the unity of Spain, although favouring a more federal country. Sánchez wasted no time in shaping his new cabinet with fresh faces to reflect his views and unrestrained by the need to politically reward many long-standing supporters.

Outsiders appointed

Of the 17 new ministers sworn in by the king on Thursday morning, 11 are women, making it the most female-dominated government in Europe.

In addition, among his more radical appointments from outside politics are a television journalist and former astronaut, as well as two public supporters of LGBT rights.