New Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez takes office at Zarzuela palace

His Cabinet is likely to be made up of politicians from his Socialist Party, with a spokesperson already having announced there will be no ministers from Podemos

Pedro Sánchez takes office as prime minister, as his predecessor Mariano Rajoy (r) and King Felipe Vi (second from r) look on.
Pedro Sánchez takes office as prime minister, as his predecessor Mariano Rajoy (r) and King Felipe Vi (second from r) look on.Fernando Alvarado (EFE)

At 11am on Saturday Spain’s new prime minister, Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE), officially took office at the Zarzuela royal palace in the presence of King Felipe VI. For the first time in Spain’s democratic history, there was no Bible or crucifix at the ceremony. Outgoing prime minister, Mariano Rajoy of the Popular Party (PP), was also present at the brief ceremony. Rajoy wished Sánchez “good luck” when they greeted each other.

Sánchez, who today became the seventh prime minister in Spain’s democratic history, opted to “promise” to exercise his role as head of the Spanish government, rather than to swear. “I promise to faithfully meet the obligations of the role of prime minister with loyalty to the king and to observe and see observed the Constitution as the fundamental law of the state,” was the text he read.

Catholics usually “swear” during the ceremony, whereas those without religious faith “promise.” The absence of Catholic symbols was introduced in 2014, in a bid to meet with the religious freedom in Spain established in the Constitution.

After the brief ceremony, Pedro Sánchez headed to La Moncloa prime ministerial palace, from where he will choose his new government.

Video of the ceremony on Saturday morning at which Pedro Sánchez took office as the new prime minister of Spain.

Friday’s events

Spain’s lower house, the Congress of Deputies, on Friday backed the no-confidence motion against Mariano Rajoy with 180 votes in favor, four more than the absolute majority of 176. By doing so, the leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE), Pedro Sánchez, automatically became prime minister thanks to the support of his 84 deputies, and those of an assortment of other parties, including the left-wing anti-austerity group Unidos Podemos, the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and the Catalan Republican Left (ERC).

The situation is unprecedented in the democratic history of Spain, given that, of four such motions filed in the past, this is the first to prosper. The process is enshrined in the Constitution, but this is the first time it has been put into practice, and as such it is surrounded by improvisation and uncertainty, in particular given the fact that just eight days have passed between Sánchez filing the motion against the now ex-Popular Party (PP) Prime Minister Rajoy, and the ouster of the latter.

The process is enshrined in the Constitution, but this is the first time it has been put into practice

A rapid transfer of power looks likely, after the PSOE chief took office on Saturday in the Zarzuela Palace, the official residence of Spain’s King Felipe VI.

On Friday at 3.30pm, the king received Ana Pastor, the speaker in Congress, who officially communicated the decision that had been taken by Congress. Felipe has already signed the royal decree that appoints Sánchez as prime minister of the Spanish government.

The Official State Gazette (BOE) published the royal decree on Saturday morning at 7.30am. Now that he has been sworn in, Sánchez will have to announce the composition of his Cabinet, so that the names can be published in the BOE and the ministers can also take office.

At this point, no one knows the composition of the future government, apart from the fact that it will be entirely made up of deputies from the PSOE. The Socialist spokesperson in Congress, Margarita Robles, stated on Friday that no members of Podemos would be entering the Cabinet. “I don’t believe that there is space for Pablo Iglesias,” she said, in reference to the leader of the left-wing party. “Although that will be a decision that falls to the prime minister of the government, and he has said that [the Cabinet] will be Socialist.”

I don’t believe that there is space for Pablo Iglesias in the Cabinet

PSOE spokesperson Margarita Robles

Speaking to Spanish TV channel Cuatro, Robles added that until now, all efforts have been focused on working on the no-confidence motion, and on “explaining to citizens why it was necessary. We will be looking at everything else from now on.”

The transfer of power will be quick, as has been the farewell of Mariano Rajoy, who made a speech lasting just 90 seconds to mark the end of his six-and-a-half years in office. Reading from a sheet of paper after the vote in Congress, and with the emotion clearly audible in his voice, he said: “It has been an honor, good luck to you all.”

The website of La Moncloa prime ministerial palace has already updated its website, with the news of the appointment of Pedro Sánchez as prime minister featuring on its front page. The “Government” page has been changed to “Acting government.” On the “prime minister” page, the biography of Rajoy has been removed. In its place, Moncloa has posted a 46-second video featuring the first statements made by Sánchez to the media after being appointed prime minister. It also features two tweets: one featuring the news of Sánchez as the new prime minister, and another with statements from Rajoy giving thanks.

English version by Simon Hunter.


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