The new faces in Spain’s coalition government

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Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Spanish King Felipe VI pose with newly appointed ministers of the new coalltion goverment during a ceremony at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid on January 13, 202 | Emilio Naranjo/AFP via Getty Images

Pedro Sánchez’s new top team is sworn in.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez presented his new government Monday, and gave a senior role to the leader of his far-left coalition partner.

A total of 22 secretaries of state were sworn in, five more than in the last Sánchez Cabinet, a decision that led to criticism from Pablo Casado, leader of the conservative Popular Party, who described the new government as “multitudinous.”

The government, a coalition between the Socialist Party and the far-left Podemos, has four vice president roles, one of which covers social rights and sustainable development and has gone to Pablo Iglesias. The Podemos leader is a former university lecturer and MEP but has never before held a government position.

The other three vice presidencies have gone to senior female politicians: Sánchez’s right-hand Carmen Calvo stays on as deputy prime minister; Teresa Ribera will oversee a portfolio focused on the ecological transition and demographic challenges; and former European Commission Director General Nadia Calviño will deal with the economy and digital transformation.

Foreign affairs will be the responsibility of Arancha González Laya, a U.N. assistant secretary-general and executive director of the International Trade Centre. She’s a European law expert who had several jobs at the Commission, including trade spokesperson and adviser to former Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy. Later she followed Lamy to the World Trade Organization, where she served as his chief of staff.

Podemos’ contribution to the coalition government is not limited to Iglesias.

González Laya promised to “reposition Spain in the EU and the world” and strengthen links with Latin America and the Caribbean, while building connections with Asia. Brexit — and how Gibraltar is affected — will be a priority.

José Luis Escrivá, an economist and president of the Independent Authority for Spanish Fiscal Responsibility, joins the government as minister for social security, inclusion and migration. Waiting in his in-tray will be one of the government’s biggest problems: how to ensure the long-term sustainability of the state pension system.

Justice, a crucial portfolio as Sánchez seeks to de-escalate the Catalan conflict by increasing dialogue and reducing the involvement of the judicial system, will be led by Juan Carlos Campo, a judge and Socialist MP. He will work closely with Carolina Darias, who joins the Cabinet as minister for regional policy and the civil service, having worked in the regional government of the Canary Islands.

Podemos’ contribution to the coalition government is not limited to Iglesias. It also includes the party’s spokesperson (and Iglesias’ partner) Irene Montero, who has been handed responsibility for policies to boost equality; lawyer Yolanda Díaz will oversee the labor portfolio; Alberto Garzón, an economist and communist, will lead on consumer protections; and Manuel Castells, a sociology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has been appointed secretary of state for universities.

Six Cabinet ministers managed to survive the reshuffle.

In his first day in the role, Castells criticized Sánchez’s decision to split higher-education policy from the science and innovation department, which will continue to be led by former astronaut Pedro Duque. Both secretaries of state pledged to work closely to ensure the departmental division does not lead to policy silos.

José Manuel Rodríguez Uribes, a member of the Madrid regional assembly, jumps to national politics as culture and sport secretary. Also moving from regional politics is Salvador Illa, No. 2 in the Catalan Socialist Party, who takes up the role of health secretary. Illa’s in-tray includes legalizing euthanasia, which is already shaping up as one of the most controversial policy reforms for the Spanish government.

Six Cabinet ministers managed to survive the reshuffle. José Luis Ábalos continues at the transport department; Fernando Grande-Marlaska stays on as home secretary; Margarita Robles continues in charge of defense; Reyes Maroto keeps the industry, commerce and tourism portfolio; Luis Planas carries on as agriculture and fisheries minister; and Isabel Celáa retains education (without higher education).

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