Spanish lawmakers voted Tuesday to confirm Mariano Rajoy, who led the conservative Popular Party to a landslide victory in the Nov. 20 elections, as the country’s new prime minister.
The vote in the lower house of Parliament was 187-149 with 14 abstentions.
Rajoy was supported by all 185 PP members and two legislators from regional parties.
Voting against him were 110 Socialists, lawmakers from the leftist IU coalition and from the center-right Catalan nationalist party CiU.
Twelve members of Basque nationalist parties and the two lawmakers from the Canary Islands party abstained.
Rajoy becomes Spain’s second premier from the PP after Jose Maria Aznar, who governed Spain between 1996-2004.
The new prime minister will be sworn-in this Wednesday before King Juan Carlos and will later announce the structure and composition of his Cabinet, which he has kept an absolute secret.
Rajoy said he was happy about the vote after working many years for this outcome and said that “winning the trust of the Spanish people implies an enormous responsibility looking toward the future.”
He made a call to join forces because “today the more people uniting in support of Spain the better,” since a government can’t do everything by itself.
After the inauguration, Rajoy was congratulated by his predecessor in office, Socialist Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, who leaves behind his leading political role Tuesday.
Lifting the country out of the grave crisis it is going through and creating jobs for Spain’s 5 million unemployed are the great challenges awaiting Rajoy, who on Monday announced austerity plans to slash the government deficit by at least 16.5 billion euros ($21.4 billion) in 2012.
U.S. President Barack Obama called Rajoy Tuesday to congratulate him and to further the “excellent relations” between the two countries, PP sources said.
On Tuesday Rajoy also received felicitations from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who wished him “great success” as prime minister and invited him to implement his austerity program “quickly and consistently.”
Less than two weeks ago the PP leader had his first contact with the Obama administration, specifically with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, whom he saw briefly in the French city of Marseille.
At that meeting, Geithner told Rajoy that his economic plan was the right one for a country like Spain.