Changes in Spanish government

Zapatero announces major cabinet reshuffle

José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero announced a major cabinet reshuffle yesterday with the objective of ‘beating the crisis’. The government which he formed following last year’s victory in the general election held in March has become one of the briefest in history.

Just one year on 6 of his 17 ministries will change hands. There will be 5 new members of his cabinet – Ángel Gabilondo (Education), Ángeles González Sinde (Culture), Trinidad Jiménez (Health and Social Services), José Blanco (Public Works and Transport) and Manuel Chaves (Territorial Policy).

As a result of the reshuffle five ministers have lost their posts – Pedro Solbes (Economy and Finance) Magdalena Álvarez (Public Works), Mercedes Cabrera (Education), Bernat Soria (Health) and César Antonio de Molina (Culture).

Elena Salgado who has been placed in charge of the Ministry of Employment will be taking on a massive task given that the employment situation in Spain is going through a critical stage.

It appears that the economic crisis which the country is currently suffering has led Zapatero to make these changes in his cabinet when the fight against the recession has only just begun. Furthermore it appears that the president has chosen to strengthen his cabinet by incorporating some of his strongest supporters such as the president of PSOE, Manuel Chaves, who will leave the Andalucian regional government alter 19 years with the challenge of achieving good relations between the government and regional governments and promoting the government’s policy for financing autonomous regions. The General Vice Secretary of PSOE, José Blanco, will enter the cabinet as the Minister for Public Works after working exclusively for the party for 9 years.

Following this major reshuffle only four members of the original government which was formed after the March 2004 general elections remain in the government – María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, Elena Salgado, Miguel Ángel Moratinos (Foreign Affairs) and Elena Espinosa (the Environment).

Ángel Gabilondo who is now in charge of the Ministry of Education will also take on the task of managing Spain’s Universities which have been returned to the department of Education after having been placed under the new ministry of Science and Technology last year. It is hoped that Gabilondo, the vice chancellor of the Autonomous University of Madrid and president of the conference of Vice Chancellors, will help give a new impulse to this Ministry.

Pedro Solbes (Economy and Finance) was one of the stars of Zapatero’s government during his first term in office and one of the reasons for PSOE’s success in the last general elections after his successful televised debate with his PP counterpart, Manuel Pizarro.

However his position has been increasingly under threat, partly because of the economic crisis, partly because of the tense relationship between Solbes and other members of the cabinet and partly because of that fact that he has reportedly expressed in private his desire to be relieved of his post.

Zapatero has justified the changes saying that it was necessary to anticipate the recovery of the economy and the creation of employment, to strengthen social cohesion and to tackle all the changes and reforms that the second decade of the 21st century required.