After being sworn in last Saturday, Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero unveiled his new cabinet, which for the first time includes more women than men – nine to eight. He also created one new ministry – for Equality, to be headed by Bibiana Aído, who at 31 is the youngest minister the country has ever had. She was a deputy in Andalucia’s regional parliament, and Secretary for Equality on the Socialist Party’s Provincial Executive Committee in Cadiz. She was also director of the Flamenco Agency. The other “first” is former housing minister, Carme Chacon, one of the rising stars of the Socialist Party, who has been moved to Defence, the first woman to occupy the post. Being seven months pregnant, she will also be the first minister to take maternity leave. In addition to Sra Aído, there are four other new faces: Miguel Espinosa who replaces Joan Clos as Industry Minister, Celestino Corbacho, who takes over from Jesús Caldera at the Labour Ministry, which has had Immigration added to it, Cristina Garmendia who heads the Ministry of Innovation and Technology, and Beatriz Corredor at Housing. Sr Zapatero has kept on María Teresa Fernández de la Vega as his First Deputy PM and Pedro Solbes as Second Deputy PM and Economics Minister. Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba continues as Interior Minister, as does Mariano Fernández Bermejo (Justice), Miguel Angel Moratinos (Foreign Ministry), Elena Salgado (Public Administration), Bernat Soria (Health and Consumer Affairs), Cesar Antonio Molina (Culture), Magdalena Alvarez (Development), Mercedes Cabrera (Education) who has now had Social Affairs added to her title, and Elena Espinosa (Agriculture, now combined with Environment). After being sworn in by King Juan Carlos. Sr Zapatero said: “I feel very proud that there are more women ministers than men in the Cabinet.” However, when the PM is included, the Cabinet is equally divided by gender. Criticisms were not long in coming. Opposition leader Mariano Rajoy described the new Cabinet as “continuista” and hoped that it would get its priorities right this time by concentrating on people’s real needs. Izquierda Unida leader Gaspar Llamazares said the new Cabinet represented a move towards the Right, while Josep Duran, the president of the moderate Catalan nationalist party Convergencia y Union, was surprised by Carme Chacon’s appointment as Defence Minister. He said he felt the job needed a much more experienced person – Chacon was Housing Minister for less than a year – someone like Public Administration Minister Elena Salgado, whose name had been floated as a possible Defence Minister. The Madrid Community’s Health councillor, Juan José Guemes, said he hoped Sr Zapatero would abandon his sectarian policies and stop trying to paralyse the Community which is governed by the Partido Popular. The spokesman for the Catalan Republican left, Joan Ridao, said the new government represented a “move to the right, aimed at curtailing the regions’ decentralised powers and showing little interest in Catalonia”. In the photo, Opposition leader Mariano Rajoy was the first to congratulate Sr Zapatero after he was confirmed as Prime Minister by Parliament. The photo made the front page of all the national newspapers, who are more used to showing the two men at each others’ throats.


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