Conservative Mariano Rajoy poised to be Spain's new prime minister

Story highlights

  • Conservative leader Mariano Rajoy is expected to be sworn in as prime minister Wednesday
  • Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is the outgoing prime minister
  • Rajoy had a landslide victory in parliamentary elections November 20
Conservative leader Mariano Rajoy won the investiture in Spain's Parliament Tuesday to become the country's next prime minister.
Rajoy is expected to be sworn in Wednesday, after which he'll begin to try to pull Spain out of its deep economic crisis.
The outcome of the two-day investiture debate in Parliament was never in doubt after Rajoy's landslide election victory in parliamentary elections November 20.
Rajoy won 187 votes on the investiture vote, with 149 opposed -- including the Socialist Party, which was defeated in last month's elections over its handling of the economy.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Rajoy by telephone Tuesday, to congratulate him and "to underscore U.S. support for his economic reform," according to a White House statement.
"The two leaders agreed on the vitality of the alliance" between Spain and the United States, the statement added.
About 5 million people in the country are jobless. Spain has an overall unemployment rate of 21.5%, but it youth unemployment rate is a staggering 45%.
In a speech to Parliament on Monday, Rajoy reiterated his campaign theme that fixing the broken economy, including growth and job creation, will be his top priority.
He said 16.5 billion euros (about $21.5 billion) will be cut from the budget next year to meet Spain's deficit reduction target. Critics say he has yet to explain where the deep cuts will be made, but Rajoy said he can't make the 2012 budget until his government takes power.
Rajoy is due to be sworn in on Wednesday before King Juan Carlos; his Cabinet ministers, yet to be announced, will be sworn in on Thursday, and the first Cabinet meeting is set for Friday.
In the parliamentary speech, Rajoy promised to update pension payments, which were frozen under the Socialists amid much public outcry. But he said that would be the only spending increase in his new budget.
He said there would soon be labor market reforms to make Spain's workforce more flexible and competitive and that there would be mergers and takeovers in Spain's troubled banking sector -- which holds a lot of bad debt from 750,000 unsold new homes that went up during the real estate boom but before the financial crisis and credit crunch set in.
Rajoy said most of Spain's national holidays that fall on weekdays would be observed on the closest Monday to improve productivity. Earlier this month, two national holidays fell on a Tuesday and a Thursday in the same week, and employers complained it was a lost week for worker productivity.
In an effort to help cash-strapped professionals and small businesses, Rajoy said they would not need to pay value-added tax on their goods and services until they collect back payments. Many of those debts are owed by government administrations at all levels, which are months in arrears in paying their suppliers due to the crisis.
The outgoing Socialist Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, will not sleep at the prime minister's compound on Tuesday