Spanish PM Rajoy ousted by parliament, replaced by opposition leader

Former Spain Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy

Rajoy is the first Spanish prime minister in modern history to be defeated by a no-confidence motion, ending his six-year tenure, the BBC reported.

The reputation of Rajoy's Popular Party had been largely damaged after a court verdict said it was a beneficiary of a massive kickbacks-for-contracts scheme.

Rajoy was in attendance at the ceremony held in the royal Zarzuela Palace and shook Sanchez's hand after the new leader was sworn in by King Felipe VI before they posed for a photo with the monarch along with the speakers of the lower Congress of Deputies and the Senate.

"It has been an honor to leave Spain better than I found it", Rajoy said in his final comments as prime minister.

A week ago, after the corruption convictions, Pedro Sánchez, a Socialist and the main opposition leader, filed a motion for Parliament to vote on the government, citing the scandal.

Sanchez said on Thursday that one of the priorities of his government would be "rebuilding bridges" with regions and "establishing the foundations that allow us to normalize relations and start a dialogue between the Spanish government and the new government in Catalonia". The report notes that Rajoy's ouster by parliament is a first for a serving leader in four decades of Spanish democracy.

All of his allies in the no-confidence motion stressed their vote against Rajoy was not a blank cheque for Sanchez.

Lawmakers stood and cheered in parliament as the untested 46-year-old - a pro-European lawmaker who has never been in government - became the country's seventh head of government since its return to democracy in the late 1970s.

He was ousted by his own party in 2016 over back-to-back losses in general elections and after he tried to block Rajoy's bid to form a government.

Sanchez and his party are staunch supporters of the European Union and the continent's shared currency.

Once he negotiated the support of several smaller parties, including Basque and Catalan nationalist groups, he had momentum for the no-confidence vote.

The former economics professor and career politician regained the Socialists' leadership past year.

He faces a tough time, however, catering to demands from small nationalist parties whose votes he captured in the no-confidence motion.

He has already committed to respecting a budget passed by Mr Rajoy, and the fragmented parliament means Sanchez will find it hard to row back on structural reforms passed by his predecessor, including new labour laws and cuts in healthcare and education.

His failure to resolve the political crisis caused by the standoff contributed to dissatisfaction with him, though the no-confidence vote - backed by Catalan pro-independence parties - was triggered primarily by a long-running corruption trial involving members of his center-right party.

The PSOE only holds 84 of 350 seats in the Spanish parliament, meaning it is not clear if the party will be able to govern effectively.

He has promised to call a new election before the end of this term in 2020.

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