Spain's new prime minister sworn in, names Cabinet

By Ciaran Giles

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 21 2011 12:51 p.m. MST

Mariano Rajoy arrives at the Moncloa Palace after he was sworn in before King Juan Carlos to become Spain's new prime minister, in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011. Rajoy's Popular Party won a landslide victory in Nov. 20 elections on promises to lift Spain out of its economic crisis. He replaces Socialist party leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who took office in 2004.

Daniel Ochoa de Olza, Associated Press

MADRID — Spain's new conservative prime minister was sworn in Wednesday and he later appointed his Cabinet, including ministers charged with lifting the country out of its severe economic crisis.

Mariano Rajoy was sworn in as premier before King Juan Carlos. Rajoy then appointed 12 ministers and said close party colleague Soraya Saenz de Santamaria would be government spokeswoman and deputy premier.

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.

Luis de Guindos was appointed economy minister and he will be aided by Cristobal Montoro, who was appointed finance minister.

Rajoy named Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo as foreign minister and placed Jorge Fernandez Diaz in charge of security as interior minister.

Madrid Mayor Alberto Ruiz Gallardon was named justice minister and Pedro Morenes will hold the defense portfolio.

Rajoy and the Popular Party replaced the Socialists, who under Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had been in office since 2004 but were punished heavily in the elections for their handling of the crisis.

Spain has already made sharp cuts to its national spending and introduced several reforms under Zapatero in a bid to convince investors and the European Union 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 on Monday pledged more austerity cuts totaling €16.5 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.

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