Spain profile

Head of state: King Felipe VI

Prime minister: Mariano Rajoy

Mariano Rajoy became prime minister in December 2011 after his conservative Popular Party won a resounding victory in parliamentary elections.

Spanish premier Mariano Rajoy Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy came to power at a time of economic crisis

The election campaign was dominated by Spain's deep debt crisis and sky-high unemployment, and the governing Socialists' defeat was widely expected.

Mr Rajoy, who has long been known as a cautious public administrator, warned the Spanish people that there is no miracle cure to restore the country to economic health.

The son of a lawyer, Mariano Rajoy grew up in a socially conservative Catholic environment, studied law and began his career as a land registrar.

He became a regional deputy for the Popular Party at the age of 26 and rose steadily through the party ranks.

He held a number of ministerial positions in the governments of Jose Maria Aznar from 1996 to 2004, and was rewarded for his loyalty and discipline when Mr Aznar chose him as his successor as party leader.

As leader of the opposition after the 2004 election, Mr Rajoy struggled to rebuild the party's fortunes.

His staying power finally paid dividends when the global economic downturn destroyed public faith in the Socialists' ability to steer the country through a period of deep crisis.

In office he has nonetheless struggled to impose financial discipline, and had to turn to the European Union to bail out the banking sector in June 2012.

He has pledged to cut government spending by 16.5bn euros (£13.7bn, $21.5bn) and to reduce the public deficit to 6.5% by the end of 2013 - a target that the IMF deems realistic after the failure of an over-ambitious plan to cut it to 4.4% in 2012.

In addition, he faces a serious move towards independence by Catalonia, Spain's wealthiest region, and allegations of links to the case of Luis Barcenas, an ex-treasurer of the Popular Party and suspect in a payments scandal.

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