Spanish socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced a reshuffle of his cabinet ministers on Saturday, for the first time since the left-wing PSOE–Podemos coalition came to power in January 2020.
Sánchez said it represented ‘a generational renewal’ because the average age of the ministers was now 50 instead of 55. In a statement released whilst he was meeting with king Felipe VI to declare his intent to change the cabinet, he said the new government’s ‘main objective will be the economic and social recovery of the country’.
‘As we put the pandemic behind us, this new government will focus on the economic recovery of the country and the creation of jobs, taking full advantage of the enormous opportunity the European Union recovery funds represent,’ said Sánchez.
He also said the new government ‘will make our country once again the reference for women-men equality’ – with a new team ‘to face a just, digital, green and feminist recovery’. Women will now head 14 (63%) of Spain’s 22 ministerial posts, compared to 12 (54%) in the previous cabinet. ‘Only with the full incorporation of women on an equal footing can we build the better Spain to which we all aspire,’ said Sánchez. The Podemos group has kept its five posts in the cabinet.
Perhaps the biggest change has been the departure of socialist Carmen Calvo, who was the first deputy prime minister. Calvo leaves following a tug-of-war with Equality Minister Irene Montero, of Podemos, over the recent draft bill that will allow gender self-identification. Economy Minister Nadia Calviño will take her place.
Foreign Affairs Minister Arancha González Laya, criticised for the recent diplomatic spat with Morocco, was replaced by José Manuel Albares, previously Spain’s ambassador to France.
Juan Carlos Campo leaves the Ministry of Justice and is replaced by judge Pilar Llop, who will leave the presidency of the Senate to take over.
Miquel Iceta, the former head of the Catalan socialists (PSC) and territorial policy minister will now be Spain’s Culture and Sports Minister, taking over from Juan Manuel Rodríguez Uribes. It comes five months after Iceta first entered the cabinet, after stepping aside to allow the former Spanish health minister, Salvador Illa, to lead the PSC in the Catalan elections.
The Spanish government has been weakened over the past several months. On 4 May, Podemos and the PSOE were routed in regional elections in Madrid by the right-wing People’s Party (PP). The defeat resulted in Pablo Iglesias, founder of Spain’s left-wing Podemos group, announcing that he was leaving politics. Iglesias had previously quit his own cabinet role as the second deputy prime minister of Spain in the coalition government, in order to run in the Madrid elections against the right-wing and far-right groups.
The PP has surged ahead of the PSOE in opinion polls following that May election – and at the end of May, polls showed the PP and the far-right Vox would together win an absolute majority in parliament if a general election were held.
The government’s decision in June to pardon nine jailed Catalan leaders has also drained support, despite Sánchez insisting that there will ‘never, ever’ be an independence referendum for Catalonia.
The pardons have been condemned by Spain’s right-wing opposition as well as by the Supreme Court, but Sánchez hopes they will give new impetus to dialogue talks with Catalonia’s new president, Pere Aragonès, due to start again in September, with the aim of resolving the Catalan political conflict.
The new cabinet posts:
- Justice Minister, Pilar Llop (replacing Juan Carlos Campo).
- Foreign Affairs Minister, José Manuel Albares (replacing Arancha González Laya).
- Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda Minister, Raquel Sánchez Jiménez (replacing José Luis Ábalos).
- Education Minister, Pilar Alegría (replacing Isabel Celaá).
- Presidency Minister, Félix Bolaños.
- Minister for Territorial Policy and government spokeswoman, Isabel Rodríguez Jiménez.
- Science Minister, Diana Morant Ripoll (replacing Pedro Duque).
- Culture and Sport Minister, Miquel Iceta (replacing Juan Manuel Rodríguez Uribes).
- Additionally, Óscar López will be taking over Iván Redondo’s role as cabinet chief.