Spanish PM makes major cabinet reshuffle

Spain`s prime minister named a new deputy premier and foreign minister.

Last Updated: Oct 21, 2010, 09:04 AM IST

Madrid: Spain`s Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero named a new deputy premier and foreign minister on Wednesday as part of a major cabinet reshuffle at a time when his ruling Socialists have been trailing in polls.

The changes comes at a time when the country is grappling with a 20 percent unemployment rate and attempts to emerge from nearly two years of recession.

Zapatero said the new government would be tasked with "completing the economic and social reforms ... so as to accelerate a recovery of the economy and employment”.

This is the biggest government reshuffle since Zapatero became a prime minister in 2004, and it follows Parliament`s decision to debate the Socialist draft budget for 2011, which cuts spending by nearly 8 percent to EUR 122 billion.

The government has secured passage of the budget following deals with two regional parties. Failure to pass the budget could have forced Zapatero to call an early election.

Zapatero named five new ministers in all, saying, it would be "a renovated and politically strengthened government”.

While announcing the changes, Zapatero said Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba would replace Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, while keeping his old portfolio.

Rubalcaba has led the fight against the armed Basque separatist group ETA in Spain since 2006.

Trinidad Jimenez, who until now was the health minister, will take over from Miguel Angel Moratinos as foreign minister.

Moratinos is credited with revamping relations with Latin America, especially Cuba and helping with the Middle East peace talks.

Zapatero has ruled out calling an early election ahead of those scheduled for 2012 but has not made known whether he himself will run again.

PTI