Rajoy sworn in as Spanish prime minister

AP News
Posted: Dec 21, 2011 8:15 AM
Rajoy sworn in as Spanish prime minister

Conservative Mariano Rajoy was sworn in as Spain's new prime minister Wednesday and prepared to announce the names of the Cabinet ministers he hopes will help him lift Spain out of its severe economic crisis.

Rajoy took the oath on the bible before King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in the Zarzuela Palace on Madrid's outskirts. He then went to the Moncloa palace government headquarters to complete the transfer of power to the new government.

He replaces Socialist party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who had been in office since 2004.

Rajoy was to return to the royal palace Wednesday evening to inform the monarch of his choice of ministers before making them public.

Rajoy's Popular Party won a landslide victory in Nov. 20 elections on promises to lift Spain out of economic turmoil.

Spain has a eurozone-high unemployment rate of 21.5 percent, a swollen deficit and a stalled economy after a near two-year recession triggered by the collapse of a real estate bubble in 2009.

Rajoy has given no clues as to who he will name to the key portfolio of economy, although Popular Party economy spokesman Cristobal Montoro has been heavily tipped for the post.

Spain has already made sharp cuts to its national spending and introduced several reforms under Zapatero but the measures have so far failed to boost the economy to any great extent.

The country's borrowing costs spiraled amid fears it might need a bailout like Greece, Ireland and Portugal but in recent weeks they have begun to slip back.

Rajoy, however, on Monday pledged more austerity cuts totaling euro16.5 billion ($21.6 billion).

The conservative leader promised reforms to encourage companies to hire and tax breaks for small and medium-sized firms that make up the bulk of the economy. He also intends trimming government personnel with a hiring freeze for most civil servant groups.

He is expected to announce further measures Friday after his first weekly Cabinet meeting.

A property registrar by training, Rajoy held four ministerial portfolios in the governments of Jose Maria Aznar between 1996 and 2004.

He was the party's candidate twice before being elected in November.