Socialist sworn in as new Spanish PM

PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

Minutes afterwards, the new Catalan government was also sworn in with leader Quim Torra saying he is committed to independence and wanted discuss it with the new prime minister.

Unlike Italy's potential new leaders, Sanchez hasn't expressed skepticism about the European Union or the continent's single currency, both of which are broadly popular in Spain.

In Spain, a no-confidence motion is designed not just to oust the standing prime minister but to choose a replacement.

Before King Felipe, Mr Sanchez was sworn in as the seventh Spanish prime minister since the country returned to democracy in the 1970s.

Sanchez faces a tough time catering to demands from small parties whose votes he captured in the no-confidence motion, among them Catalan separatists.

His arrival at the prime minister's office represents an astounding comeback for the man who led the Socialists to two crushing general elections defeats in 2015 and 2016, and was forced out by the party apparatus.

The country's new leader will preside over a minority government propped up by the leftist Podemos bloc and other parties, including Basque and Catalan nationalists.

Mariano Rajoy has told the Spanish parliament that he is proud of his record as prime minister in brief remarks ahead of a no-confidence vote that appears set to give the power to the opposition Socialists. Under the Spanish Constitution, Rajoy's government sent resignation to the king.

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But he was reelected as party head by members in 2017, and managed to oust Rajoy, a 63-year-old veteran politician who had been in power since 2011.

The vote was triggered by a scandal involving Rajoy's center-right People's Party (PP), which saw former PP members handed jail sentences this month for their part in the long-running Operacion Guertel corruption case.

Sanchez also will likely have to deal with the Catalonia independence question.

Sanchez won Friday's no-confidence motion with 180 votes in favor, 169 against and 1 abstention. Sanchez said he would seek to build a consensus to try to weed out corruption.

"Today, finally, we are sending the Popular Party home", said Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias, who called for Sanchez to implement an ambitious social agenda and to undo years of austerity measures by the conservatives.

Although he was re-elected as party head during primaries in May previous year, the Socialists were often sidelined as Podemos, the centre-right Ciudadanos and Mr Rajoy's PP took centre stage in politics.

Mr Torra said: "This government is committed to moving towards an independent state in the form of a republic".

Sanchez said on Thursday he would stick to the budget put forward by Rajoy and approved by parliament last month if voted into power. In order to secure votes against Mr Rajoy from Catalonia's separatists, Mr Sanchez had to promise to open talks with the secessionists about the future of the north-eastern region. As the second most voted party in the 2016 election, the Socialists proposed Sanchez, who regained the party leadership a year ago after an internal revolt that sidelined him for months.

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