Spain finds its comeback kid in new leader Pedro Sanchez

Anna Jefferson
June 1, 2018

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez in the parliament after the motion of no confidence vote.

The report notes that Rajoy's ouster by parliament is a first for a serving leader in four decades of Spanish democracy.

Within hours of being appointed the new Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, the Socialist leader was scrambling to devise a solution to the Catalan independence drive which has threatened to tear Spain apart.

The Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) says it will support the motion, which may then propel Mr Sánchez into office.

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Although Rajoy survived a similar no-confidence vote a year ago, Friday's ballot draws a line under his rollercoaster time in office which began in 2011 and saw him implementing drastic spending cuts before winning re-election in 2015 and 2016.

There have been three other such votes since Spain returned to democracy following the death of long-time dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, including one against Rajoy past year.

Sanchez won Friday's no-confidence motion with 180 votes in favour, 169 against and 1 abstention.

And it was another graft scandal that prompted the Socialists to table the no-confidence motion after a court said it had uncovered a vast system of bribes given to former PP officials in exchange for lucrative public contracts between 1999 and 2005.

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The National Court, which deals with major criminal cases, sentenced 29 people with links to the PP, including a former treasurer, to jail.

Outgoing premier Rajoy conceded defeat prior to the no-confidence vote, congratulating Sanchez and telling deputies in a short speech: "It has been an honor to have left Spain in a better state than I found it". It also ordered the party to pay back €245,000 (US$290,000) received from the scheme to help finance election campaigns.

The former economics professor and career politician regained the Socialists' leadership a year ago.

Although he is now prime minister, Sánchez's party commands less than 25% of seats in parliament.

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Leftist Podemos, which will offer parliamentary support to Sanchez's government, is also unlikely to gain big influence over the new prime minister, who is keen to differentiate his Socialist party from its anti-austerity ally and win back centrist voters. Judges did not find that current government members had committed any wrongdoing. His party has also faced continued allegations of corruption over the past years, culminating in the recent scandal. "With what moral authority do you speak?" he told Sanchez.

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