Span­ish pol­lies opt for new PM

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

SPAN­ISH So­cial­ist party leader Pe­dro Sanchez is set to be­come Spain’s new prime min­is­ter af­ter a no-con­fi­dence vote in par­lia­ment un­seated Mar­i­ano Ra­joy’s con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment.

Mr Sanchez, un­til now the leader of the largest op­po­si­tion party, will be sworn in by King Felipe VI as soon as pos­si­ble and ap­point his cabi­net over the com­ing days. The in­com­ing leader vowed to ad­dress Spain’s “so­cial ur­gen­cies” af­ter years of aus­ter­ity.

Mr Sanchez, 46, takes the helm of the 19- coun­try eu­ro­zone’s fourth- largest econ­omy as the Euro­pean Union faces nu­mer­ous prob­lems, in­clud­ing Bri­tain’s de­par­ture from the bloc and po­lit­i­cal ten­sion over refugees from North Africa.

On the do­mes­tic front, he will head a mi­nor­ity gov­ern­ment that will prob­a­bly need to ne­go­ti­ate 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, Mr Sanchez — the coun­try’s new leader as soon as the king swears him in.

The Madrid stock ex­change was up 1.8 per cent af­ter he won the vote and he earned a stand­ing ova­tion from his party’s politi­cians.

The end of Mr Ra­joy’s term as Span­ish prime min­is­ter af­ter more than six years was the first ouster of a serv­ing leader by par­lia­ment in four decades of democ­racy and brought a rare suc­cess for a cen­tre-left party in Europe in re­cent times.

Mr Ra­joy went to shake hands with Mr Sanchez af­ter the re­sult was an­nounced. He made brief re­marks be­fore the vote, telling his peers “it has been an hon­our to leave Spain bet­ter than I found it”.

Mr Ra­joy has been in power since De­cem­ber 2011, suc­cess­fully steer­ing Spain out of its worst economic cri­sis in decades dur­ing the eu­ro­zone debt cri­sis and achiev­ing some of the strong­est economic growth in Europe. Last year, gross do­mes­tic prod­uct growth reached 3.1 per cent.

But the rep­u­ta­tion of Mr 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.

Mr Sanchez saw that as his open­ing and man­aged to muster enough sup­port from smaller par­ties to send him to La Mon­cloa palace, the seat of gov­ern­ment in Madrid.

Mr Sanchez and his party are staunch sup­port­ers of the EU and the con­ti­nent’s shared cur­rency. He will be Spain’s sev­enth prime min­is­ter since the coun­try re­turned to democ­racy in the late 1970s.

Pe­dro Sanchez shakes hands with out­go­ing Mar­i­ano Ra­joy.

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