Spain's king swears in Sanchez cabinet with majority of women

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Spain's new cabinet members stand with King Felipe during a swearing-in ceremony at the Zarzuela Palace outside Madrid, Spain, June 7, 2018Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Women outnumber men in Mr Sánchez's team by almost two to one

Spain's King Felipe VI has sworn in a new Socialist government with a record number of 11 women in 17 cabinet posts.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said his new team "shared the same vision of a progressive society that was both modernising and pro-European".

The cabinet is in marked contrast to the male-dominated executives of centre-right ex-PM Mariano Rajoy, who was ousted last week.

As a minority government, it will rely on other parties to enact legislation.

Including the prime minister, the 18-strong government is 61.1% female - the highest proportion in the country's history. Only a handful of countries currently have governments where at least 50% of ministers are women. They include France, Sweden and Canada.

Women have been given some of the biggest jobs in the new Spanish cabinet, including the defence, economy, finance and education portfolios.

Separately, an ex-astronaut has been given the role of science minister.

Mr Sánchez, 46, whose party commands just 84 seats in the 350-seat parliament, came to power when Mr Rajoy lost his job in the wake of a massive corruption scandal.

The new prime minister, who says he is a feminist, said his government marked a watershed moment in Spanish society.

Who's who in the Sánchez government?

His mix of party colleagues and experienced figures from outside politics is being described in Spain as a "feminist cabinet".

Image source, EPA
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Three of the key figures in the new government are Economy Minister Nadia Calviño (L), Deputy PM Carmen Calvo and Finance Minister María Jesús Montero

In a televised statement on Wednesday evening he spoke of Europe as "our new homeland" and said he saw his cabinet as a faithful reflection of a change in Spain that had emerged on 8 March through a feminist movement. An estimated five million women across the country staged a "feminist strike" on that day against wage inequality and gender violence.

One of the biggest jobs has gone to Carmen Calvo, a Socialist who will become deputy prime minister and take charge of a reinstated equality ministry. Some of the other new ministers are:

  • María Jesús Montero, a former Andalusia budget minister, will be finance minister
  • Nadia Calviño, the chief of budget at the EU Commission, will be economy minister
  • Dolores Delgado, a prosecutor specialising in anti-terrorism, will be justice minister
  • Margarita Robles, a close aide to the prime minister, gets the defence ministry
  • Isabel Celáa, a Socialist with long-standing experience in education becomes education minister
  • Josep Borrell, the former European Parliament president, will be foreign minister
  • Fernando Grande Marlaska, an openly gay magistrate and former high-court judge who took on cases against Basque separatist group Eta, becomes interior minister
  • Màxim Huerta, a journalist and award-winning novelist whose last book was published two months ago, becomes culture and sports minister
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In a tweet, the new culture minister paid tribute to his "teacher", the late writer Ana María Matute, with the words: "Culture makes us more free and more happy."

As the ministers were sworn in by the king on Thursday, they took their oaths on the constitution rather than on the bible or crucifix, following the example of Mr Sánchez, who became the first prime minister to forego religious symbols during his swearing-in on Saturday.

New PM looks beyond party for talent

By James Badcock, Madrid

Pedro Sánchez promised his government would be "Socialist and have gender parity". In fact, the government is not entirely Socialist because of its strong technocratic core, and women are commanding a majority.

Given that Mr Sánchez has promised to call elections in less than two years and that he has inherited the outgoing government's budget for 2018, he is looking for a formula that will give him victory at the polls. He may have only 84 seats and will struggle to pass reforms, but he hopes to at least dangle enticing plans before Spanish voters.

He has made a point of sourcing talent from outside his party as well as within. The women in his cabinet include a climate change treaty negotiator, a top Eurocrat and Spain's top anti-terror prosecutor.

Who's the astronaut?

One of the other stand-out names was ex-astronaut Pedro Duque, 55, who last went to space in 2003 as part of an International Space Station (ISS) mission.

An aeronautical engineer with three children, he was selected by the European Space Agency's astronaut corps in 1992 and travelled to space for the first time in 1998, when he joined Nasa's STS-95 mission from Cape Canaveral. Mr Duque served as a mission specialist aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on the nine-day mission.

In 2003, he took part in the 10-day Cervantes ISS mission as a flight engineer on the Russian Soyuz-TMA.

Image source, ESA-S. Corvaja 2003
Image caption,
Pedro Duque took part in a 2003 mission to the ISS

Conservative Popular Party leader Mariano Rajoy, who took office in 2011, lost his job as prime minister last week after losing a no-confidence motion in parliament.

On Wednesday, Mr Rajoy, 63, said he planned to leave the political scene, saying "there are other things to do in life than dedicate oneself to politics".

He added: "I had an enormously intense political life and I think it makes no sense to stay longer here."