Girl Power! Women outnumber men in new Spanish cabinet

PM Zapatero sworn in for 2nd term in office, says: "I feel very proud that there are more women ministers than men."

Zapatero 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Zapatero 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was sworn in Saturday for a second term and announced a new Cabinet that includes many ministers from his last government. More than half are women. Lawmakers had approved his reappointment as government leader on Friday, formally handing him the challenges of a slumping economy and resurgent Basque militants. He also will have to govern without an absolute majority in parliament. Although Zapatero opted for continuity, he also created an Equality Ministry, headed by a woman, Bibiana Aido, 31. At his inaugural news conference, Zapatero said she is the youngest minister Spain has had. He also created a new Science and Innovation Ministry, headed by renowned Basque molecular biologist Cristina Garmendia. Nine of the ministers are women, and eight are men; when the prime minister is included, the Cabinet is equally divided by gender. "I feel very proud that there are more women ministers than men," said Zapatero. He reappointed Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega as deputy prime minister, a mainstay of his previous government. Pedro Solbes continues to head finance, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba remains interior minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos will remain head of foreign policy, and Mariano Fernandez Bermejo remains in charge of Justice. For the first time, Spain's Defense Ministry will be led by a woman, Carme Chacon. Zapatero, whose Socialists won a general election on March 9 but fell short of an absolute majority, did not get enough support in parliament to be voted in as prime minister in a first vote this week, forcing a second-round ballot in which the threshold for approval was lower. At a ceremony Saturday before King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, Zapatero took his oath of office with his hand on an open copy of Spain's constitution. In this once staunchly Roman Catholic country it is now possible for a government leader to choose between swearing an oath on the Bible or on the constitution, a symbol of how much has changed since the Fascist dictatorship of Gen. Francisco Franco, who ruled from 1939 to 1975. Because his party failed to win an absolute majority, Zapatero will have to broker deals in parliament. Among Zapatero's potential partners are two mainstream Catalan and Basque nationalist parties, each with its own political agenda. Spain's economy, once the envy of Europe, having posted more than a decade of sustained growth, is cooling due mainly to a stall in the once-booming real estate sector and construction industry. The International Monetary Fund said in a report this week that Spain's gross domestic product growth is projected to fall to 1.8 percent this year, a drop from the 3.8 percent increase recorded in 2007. Zapatero's other big challenge is the armed Basque separatist group ETA, which declared a cease-fire in March 2006 but grew frustrated with a lack of concessions in peace talks with Zapatero's government and now is back on the offensive having set off a string of bombings.