Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro SÃ¡nchez has carried out a major government reshuffle as ruling Socialists seek to regain the initiative after a series of political, economic and diplomatic setbacks.
In a much larger-than-expected government overhaul, SÃ¡nchez promoted Economy Minister Nadia CalviÃ±o to become his new number two as several of the most prominent figures stepped down.
In a speech to the nation, SÃ¡nchez announced the formation of what he described as a new government that would focus on economic recovery and the use of 140 billion euros in European funds which Spain hopes will help him recover from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. – and on which the government is counting to revive its fortune.
âThe government stimulus begins today, to overcome the worst calamity in decades,â SÃ¡nchez said. He added that the staff change also heralded “generational renewal”, with the average age of ministers dropping from 55 to 50 and the percentage of women dropping from 54 to 63 percent.
Among those who left the coalition were Carmen Calvo, SÃ¡nchez’s former senior assistant, as well as Foreign Minister Arancha GonzÃ¡lez, Prime Minister’s chief of staff and strategist IvÃ¡n Redondo and JosÃ© Luis Ãbalos, a socialist veteran who was Minister of Transport.
The new Minister of Foreign Affairs will be JosÃ© Manuel Albares, a former adviser to Sanchez who is currently Ambassador to France, and who prides himself on his diplomatic experience and his proximity to the Prime Minister.
The promotion of CalviÃ±o – a former senior European Commission official – means she will chair cabinet meetings in Sanchez’s absence.
âThis decision underscores his status as an essential part of this government; it is also a signal to the markets and to Brussels of its commitment to economic orthodoxy, âsaid Pablo SimÃ³n, professor of politics at the Carlos III University in Madrid.
But he added that the reshuffle “was practically trying to restart government from scratch” just under half of Parliament’s four-year term.
The Socialists have fallen behind the center-right People’s Party in the polls following their devastating defeat in the regional elections in Madrid. The government also found itself embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with Morocco, which briefly allowed thousands of migrants in May to cross the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.
Spain’s gross domestic product has contracted more as a result of the pandemic than that of any other major economy, falling 10.8% last year.
The country’s economic outlook has been further clouded by the country’s fifth Covid wave, which last week pushed its infection rate to the highest in mainland Europe, putting the tourist season at risk.
In normal times, tourism generates 12 percent of Spain‘s GDP and 13 percent of jobs, with the months of July and August playing a disproportionate role. Last week, Germany and France warned their citizens against travel to the country.
Among other changes, the reshuffle replaced the heads of the Ministries of Education, Justice, Science and Culture and appointed a new government spokesperson, Isabel RodrÃguez.
SimÃ³n pointed out that not only were many ministries changing hands, but the four senior officials coordinating policy under SÃ¡nchez – which included Calvo, Redondo and balos – had left their posts.
The fourth member of this group, Pablo Iglesias, the former leader of the partner of the radical left coalition of socialists Podemos, has left politics after finishing fifth in the Madrid elections.
Iglesias had previously been replaced as Deputy Prime Minister by Yolanda DÃaz, Spain’s Communist Minister of Labor. The five Podemos ministers were not part of Saturday’s reshuffle.
Spanish opposition parties have responded to the changes by labeling SÃ¡nchez, not his ministers, the problem and calling for elections.