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PSOE's Pedro Sanchez becomes Spain's new PM after Rajoy is voted out

Spain's new Prime Minister and Socialist party (PSOE) leader Pedro Sanchez applauds with deputies after a motion of no confidence vote at parliament in Madrid, Spain, June 1, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

by Chronicle staff and agencies

PSOE leader Pedro Sanchez has taken over as Spain's Prime Minister after ousting Mariano Rajoy in a no confidence vote in parliament triggered by a long-running corruption trial involving members of his Partido Popular.

It is the first time a serving leader in Spain has been removed by the parliament in Madrid in four decades of democracy.

Mr Sanchez secured 180 votes out of 350, with 169 votes against the motion and one abstention.

He won the vote after securing the support of the Basque Nationalist Party and two Catalan pro-independence parties, as well as Podemos.

Ciudadanos, which prior to the vote was leading in the national opinion polls, was the only major party that supported Mr Rajoy.

Mr Sanchez becomes Spain's seventh Prime Minister since its return to democracy in the late 1970s following the dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

Mr Sanchez indicated during the debate on the motion that he would try to govern until the scheduled end of the parliamentary term in mid-2020.

But it is unclear how long his administration, with only 84 Socialist deputies in the 350-member legislative assembly, can last.

Many observers said Mr Sanchez was in any case unlikely to call any vote until after European, local and regional elections take place in May next year.

He has already committed to respecting a budget passed by Mr Rajoy, and the fragmented parliament means Sanchez will find it hard to row back on structural reforms passed by his predecessor, including new labour laws and cuts in healthcare and education.

Leftist Podemos, which will offer parliamentary support to Mr Sanchez's government, is also unlikely to gain big influence over the new Prime Minister, who is keen to differentiate his Socialist party from its anti-austerity ally and win back centrist voters.

Mr Rajoy had conceded defeat prior to the no-confidence vote, earlier telling deputies: "Mr Sanchez will be the head of the government and let me be the first to congratulate him."

Mr Rajoy's position had become increasingly untenable, undermined by his status as head of a corruption-tinged minority government as well as a divisive independence drive in Catalonia.

Mr Sanchez, who is expected to be sworn in by Monday and appoint his cabinet next week, has promised to start talks with the Catalans but said he will not give them an independence referendum. 

Main photo REUTERS/Sergio Perez