Spanish prime minister ousted after vote of no confidence by parliament

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Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy leaves the parliament after shaking hands with socialist leader Pedro Sanchez after a motion of no confidence vote at the Spanish parliament in Madrid, Friday, June 1, 2018. (Pierre Phillipe Marcou/Pool Photo via AP)

It was a political gamble that paid off. Spain’s Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez is the nation’s new Prime Minister, after parliament approved his motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

CGTN’s Al Goodman reports from Madrid.

Rajoy crossed the aisle to bid farewell. Sanchez stitched together a mainly leftist majority to oust Rajoy. The former prime minister’s conservative party was rocked by a court sentence last week for corruption, prompting the debate of no confidence.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, right, shakes hands with socialist leader Pedro Sanchez after a motion of no confidence vote at the Spanish parliament in Madrid, Friday, June 1, 2018. (Pierre Phillipe Marcou/Pool Photo via AP)

“I’ll work with determination to transform and modernize our country, which the Socialist Party has always done when governing, and to take care of urgent social needs.” 

– Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez

But Rajoy’s departure from politics did not come easy. In power for six years, he insisted there were just isolated cases of corruption. Nonetheless, the court convicted dozens of former officials of taking bribes in exchange for granting lucrative public contracts.

The court said the party itself benefited from the scheme. They questioned Rajoy’s witness testimony during the trial when he claimed to know nothing about it.

The corruption issue united widely diverse parties against Rajoy.

“Now, being a party involved in corruption problems will pay a price and it will mean, at the end of the day, losing the power as well,” said political scientist Pablo Simon.

Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, bottom right, waves as members of his party applaud him during the second day of a motion of no confidence session at the Spanish parliament in Madrid, Friday, June 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)

It’s the first vote of no confidence that succeeded in toppling a prime minister in 40 years of Spanish democracy. That alone is an achievement in itself, but many politicians in Spain say the hard work really begins now.

Sanchez’s Socialist Party has just 84 seats in the fragmented 350-seat parliament. His minority government will start out even more fragile than Rajoy’s minority government.

Sanchez has also had to fight leadership battles within his own party. These uncertainties have made financial markets jittery in southern Europe, where Italy has also had political turmoil.

Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (R) is congratulated by Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) parliamentary spokesman, Aitor Esteban (L) after a vote on a no-confidence motion at the Lower House of the Spanish Parliament in Madrid on June 01, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU)

“Of course, it will be difficult and we are aware of the situation. But we think it’s the moment of the dialogue and when you dialogue here in the parliament you can get a lot of things,” Margarita Robles of the Spanish Socialist Party said.

Sanchez has promised dialogue with separatist leaders who want Catalonia (the region around Barcelona) to be an independent country. He’s got pressure from rival parties on both sides. Their leaders also want the prime minister’s job.

Sanchez has said he’ll try to serve for two years, until the end of the parliamentary term.


Javier Ruperez discusses the ousting of Spain’s prime minister

CGTN’s Frances Kuo spoke to Javier Ruperez about the reshuffling of Spain’s government. Ruperez is a retired diplomat and Spain’s former Ambassador to the U.S.