No Podemos ministers in new Spanish government -PM's aide

OSCAR DEL POZO

No Podemos ministers in new Spanish government -PM's aide

Socialist leader Pedro Sanchez has been sworn in as Spain's prime minister by King Felipe VI.

Sanchez, who leads the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party and reportedly is an atheist, has become the first Spanish Prime Minister to be sworn in without a Bible or crucifix, according to the party.

Spain's parliament voted Friday to replace Rajoy's government with one led by Sanchez after a ruling by the National Court delivered hefty prison sentences to 29 business people and ex-members of Rajoy's Popular Party, including some elected officials, for fraud, money laundering and tax evasion, among other crimes.

The 46-year-old Mr Sanchez is Spain's seventh prime minister since the return to democracy following the death of dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975.

Mr Torra said: "This government is committed to moving towards an independent state in the form of a republic". His government will depend on the support of the far-left Podemos (We Can) party and of a motley crew of regional parties and Catalan secessionists to get anything done in government.

Sanchez has vowed to fight corruption and help those Spaniards affected by years of public spending cuts under Rajoy's government.

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But the new prime minister had been barely sworn in before one of the country's most critical issues facing his fragile government was pressed upon him - ending the Catalan secession crisis.

Sanchez has pledged to open talks with the separatist leader of northeastern Catalonia, which is set to recover the large degree of self-rule after chief Quim Torra swears in his Cabinet later Saturday.

Sanchez also will likely have to deal with the Catalonia independence question.

"I am aware of the responsibility I am assuming, of the complex political moment our country is going through and I will rise to all the challenges with humility and dedication", Sanchez said after the vote to remove Rajoy from office. An absolute majority of 180 lawmakers voted for the motion on Friday to loud applause and shouts of "Yes we can".

"Our "Yes" to Sanchez is a "No" to Rajoy", is how Mr Joan Tarda of the Catalan pro-independence party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya put it in Parliament.

Sanchez will only be able to implement policy initiatives "that allow him to obtain an easy majority" in parliament, said Fernando Vallespin, political scientist at the Autonomous University of Madrid.

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