Spain PM Ra­joy sworn in; New bat­tles loom

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Spain’s con­ser­va­tive leader Mar­i­ano Ra­joy was sworn in yes­ter­day for a sec­ond term as prime min­is­ter, bring­ing a close to 10 months of po­lit­i­cal limbo. “I swear to faith­fully ful­fill the obli­ga­tions of prime min­is­ter and to show loy­alty to the king,” Ra­joy said with his hand on the Span­ish con­sti­tu­tion, at a cer­e­mony at­tended by King Felipe VI and broad­cast live on na­tional tele­vi­sion. Ra­joy, leader of the con­ser­va­tive Pop­u­lar Party (PP), is set to spend the next three days form­ing a new cab­i­net for his hard­won mi­nor­ity govern­ment. A se­nior party source said he was stay­ing tight-lipped about his cab­i­net picks, plan­ning to no­tify min­is­ters of their new jobs “a half-hour be­fore”. The come­back fol­lows a vic­to­ri­ous con­fi­dence vote in par­lia­ment on Satur­day only pos­si­ble be­cause Spain’s So­cial­ists (PSOE) de­cided to ab­stain and not vote against him.

Still it is clear that Ra­joy faces un­prece­dented op­po­si­tion as Spain grap­ples with painful eco­nomic re­forms and resur­gent Cata­lan sep­a­ratism. When the PP ruled from 2011 to 2015, it en­joyed an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment. Now, it must gov­ern with 137 of 350 MPs, mean­ing that it will have to ne­go­ti­ate with the up­start cen­trist Ci­u­dadanos, Basque and Cata­lan na­tion­al­ists, and the main op­po­si­tion So­cial­ists on ev­ery bill it seeks to pass. Ra­joy, 61, has been at the helm of a pro­vi­sional govern­ment with­out full pow­ers for nearly a year fol­low­ing in­con­clu­sive elec­tions in De­cem­ber 2015 in which the PP lost its ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity, de­spite com­ing first. New elec­tions in June once again failed to pro­duce a clear win­ner.

Ra­joy is ex­pected to name his new cab­i­net Thurs­day, with sev­eral min­is­ters ap­proach­ing re­tire­ment age set to de­part, in­clud­ing In­te­rior Min­is­ter Jorge Fer­nan­dez Diaz, a con­tro­ver­sial fig­ure for his ef­forts to tighten the le­gal noose on Cata­lan sep­a­ratists. De­fense Min­is­ter Pe­dro Morenes and For­eign Min­is­ter Jose Manuel Garcia Mar­gallo could also lose their jobs.Ra­joy’s first daunt­ing task af­ter that will be to sub­mit a bud­get to par­lia­ment for ap­proval af­ter a de­lay of sev­eral months-cer­tain to be a headache given his lack of a par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity.

If Ra­joy per­suades enough MPs to back-or not op­pose-his tax­a­tion and spend­ing plans, he will still face scru­tiny from the Euro­pean Union which will want to know how Spain will re­duce its struc­tural deficit to be­low three per­cent of GDP for 2017. But it may prove im­pos­si­ble for Ra­joy to se­cure enough par­lia­men­tary sup­port while meet­ing the terms laid down by Brus­sels. To slash the deficit Ra­joy will ei­ther have to cut spend­ing by 5.5 bil­lion eu­ros ($6 bil­lion) - an­ger­ing the left on whose sup­port he may de­pend to get the bud­get passed-or hike taxes, which could in term anger busi­nesses and jeop­ar­dize in­vest­ment.

Spain has the sec­ond high­est un­em­ploy­ment rate in the EU-sec­ond only to Greece-at 18.9 per­cent, which cou­pled with a pen­sions cri­sis threat­ens frag­ile growth. Along­side the econ­omy, Ra­joy will be forced to grasp the thorny is­sue of Cat­alo­nia, Spain’s wealthy north­east­ern re­gion where an in­de­pen­dence move­ment has gath­ered pace since he first came to power in 2011. Cata­lan re­gional pres­i­dent Car­les Puigde­mont has vowed to press ahead with an in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum next year if Madrid re­fuses to ne­go­ti­ate. — AFP

MADRID: Spain’s newly re-elected Prime Min­is­ter Mar­i­ano Ra­joy (left) waits to swear an oath as Pres­i­dent of the Gen­eral Coun­cil of the Ju­di­ciary and the Supreme Court Car­los Lesmes Ser­rano, Pres­i­dent of Con­sti­tu­tional Tri­bunal Fran­cisco Perez de los Co­bos, pres­i­dent of the Se­nate of Spain Pio Garcia-Es­cud­ero, Span­ish pres­i­dent of the Span­ish congress Ana Pas­tor, Spain’s King Felipe VI, and Span­ish Min­is­ter of Jus­tice Rafael Catala look on dur­ing a royal de­cree cer­e­mony at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid yes­ter­day. —AFP

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