Despite electoral defeat, Spanish PM postpones Cabinet changes

Rajoy only appoints new Prime Minister’s Office undersecretary despite rumors of reshuffle

Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría during Friday’s news conference.
Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría during Friday’s news conference.Álvaro García

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Friday again put off making major changes to his Cabinet that had been expected earlier in the week. Only one new government appointment, in the Prime Minister’s Office, was made following the weekly Cabinet meeting.

Rajoy had announced in Milan on Monday that a reshuffle in the ministries was in the works that would guide him through the rest of his term and help regain public confidence before the general election, which is due to take place in November.

Rajoy had announced in Milan on Monday that a Cabinet reshuffle was in the works

The announcement came after the Popular Party (PP) lost many key races in last month’s regional and local elections, including in Madrid and Valencia. The emerging leftist Podemos and center-right Ciudadanos parties made major headway across the country.

Government sources had said that the prime minister would announce the changes on Wednesday, but he later told reporters that day: “I don’t know where that information came from.”

When asked about the delay on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría reaffirmed Rajoy’s right to decide when he would make the announcement.

“That decision, as well as that of calling elections, depends on the prime minister,” she said at a news conference following the Cabinet meeting.

The decision to make Cabinet changes, as well as calling elections, depends on the prime minister” Deputy PM Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría

“Everyone else can have their own opinions and, because they are not the ones to decide, they can be right or they can be wrong. I am the type of person who prefers the prime minister to say something first, and when he does, I will communicate it to the public.”

The Cabinet did approve the appointment of Federico Ramos de Armas, the current secretary of state for the environment, as undersecretary of the Prime Minister’s Office. He will replace Jaime Pérez Renovales, who had been Sáenz de Santamaría’s right-hand man.

“The person who joins us has a lot of administrative experience and ability for dialogue. He knows the territory well, and has a great ability to close big agreements and coordinate,” she said.

On Thursday, the prime minister had announced new appointments to his PP team, bringing in several fresh young faces into key roles inside the party, but no major power shifts occurred.

He assigned his current Cabinet chief Jorge Moragas to direct his re-election campaign, and appointed 34-year-old Pablo Casado, a frequent PP panelist on late-night political debate programs, as deputy secretary for communications.

Fresh young faces have taken over some key roles in the PP but no major power shifts have occurred

María Dolores de Cospedal will continue as secretary general of the party but she will also have a new team made up by Fernando Martínez Maíllo, the current leader of the provincial government in Zamora, who will be in charge of organization, and Javier Maroto, the former mayor of Vitoria, who will head the PP’s regional chapters.

In her press conference, Sáenz de Santamaría also announced that the Cabinet next week would approve a spending ceiling for 2016 that would “strengthen the recovery” of the Spanish economy and be attached to next year’s proposed budget.

The spending limit should be approved by Congress in July, she said.

The deputy prime minister said the 2016 budget would be drafted differently from those drawn up during the recent years of economic crisis. This time it would be based on a projected three-percent growth figure and on the creation of new jobs, which would allow the government to make other decisions, she said.

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