SPAIN’S first coalition government since 1935, and the first since the first democratic elections of 1977, was officially sworn in on Monday.
The new alliance formed by the centre-left Socialist Workers’ party (PSOE), and the far-left Unidas Podemos comes into power following inconclusive general elections in April and November.
Prime Minister and PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez narrowly won approval to take office last week, with 167 votes in favour and 165 against, and 18 abstentions, including the ERC pro-Catalan independence party.
Sanchez said the country had grown tired of political deadlock, quarrels and divisions. He promised the government “will be informed by different ideas, but will walk in a single direction”, and pledged it “will serve all Spain, prioritising “dialogue” and “unity.”
The Prime Minister identified several main areas of work for his “progressive” administration. These include “financing economic growth and creating quality employment” and “social justice.” Interestingly all the economy-related cabinet posts remain in PSOE hands.
Specific plans to raise income tax for those earning in excess of €130,000 a year have met with approval in a recent survey in national daily, El Pais.
So too have Sanchez’s proposed reversal of labour-market reforms, introduced by the previous conservative Partido Popular, to make it easier and less costly to sack employees.
The CEOE (Confederation of Spanish Business Organisations) and the CEPYME (Confederation of Small and Medium-sized Business) voiced disapproval of the planned reforms during the election campaign, but have since issued a joint communique promising “total collaboration with the new government to achieve the best for our country.”
Sanchez has pledged to boost the minimum wage, limit rent increases and provide Education with a bigger budget allocation.
He has also promised to abolish the co-payment for doctors’ prescriptions introduced by his predecessor in 2012 and a return to free, comprehensive healthcare.
Last summer, Brussels recommended that Spain’s public spending in 2020 should not exceed 0.9 per cent and expressed concerns that the country “was moving away from the adjustment path.”
While relieved that Spain now has a stable government, Brussels is watching even more closely to see how Sanchez can keep election pledges while balancing the country’s books.
“Territorial understanding” is another top issue for his government, the Prime Minister said, underlining the importance of talks with Catalan separatists.
Further crucial areas according to Sanchez are what he referred to as the “demographic challenge”, the digital transformation of the economy and full gender equality.
The new 22-member cabinet posts are in fact divided equally between men and women. There are four deputy prime ministers, three of whom are PSOE. The fourth is Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, who takes on the portfolio for social rights and Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.
Pedro Sanchez (PSOE): Prime Minister
Carmen Calvo (PSOE): Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Presidency, Relations with the Government Chambers and Democratic Memory
Pablo Iglesias (Unidas Podemos): Second Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Social Rights and Agenda 2030.
Nadia Calviño (PSOE): Third Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation.
Teresa Ribera: (PSOE): Fourth Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge
Arancha Gonzalez Laya (PSOE): Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation.
Juan Carlos Campo (PSOE): Justice Minister
Margarita Robles (PSOE): Defence Minister
Maria Jesus Montero (PSOE): Treasury Minister and Government Spokesperson
Fernando Grande-Marlaska (PSOE): Interior Minister
Jose Luis Abalos (PSOE): Minister of Trasnport, Mobility and Urban Agenda
Isabel Celaa (PSOE): Minister of Education and Professional Training
Yolanda Diaz (Unidas Podemos): Minister of Employment and Social Economy
Reyes Maroto (PSOE): Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism
Luis Planas (PSOE): Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Carolina Darias (PSOE): Minister of Territorial Policy and Public Function
Jose Manuel Rodriguez Uribes (PSOE): Minister of Culture and Sport
Salvador Illa (PSOE): Health Minister
Pedro Duque (PSOE): Minister of Science and Innovation
Irene Montero (Unidas Podemos): Equality Minister
Alberto Garzon (Unidas Podemos): Consumer Minister
Jose Luis Escriva: Minister of Inclusion, Social Security and Migration
Manuel Castells Unidas (Podemos): Universities Minister