Astronaut named Spain’s new science minister

Pedro Sanchez appoints majority-women cabinet as he seeks to legitimise new government

Pedro Duque after his final space flight in 2003
(Image credit: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images)

An astronaut has been named Spain’s new science minister, in a socialist cabinet dominated by women.

The country’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who ousted Mariano Rajoy in a vote of no confidence last week following a massive corruption scandal, has named the first Spaniard ever to travel into space, Pedro Duque, as minister for science, innovation and universities.

But it is in the make-up of the rest of his cabinet which has drawn the most attention, and where Sanchez has diverged dramatically from his predecessor, naming nine women and three men in his first round of appointments.

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The BBC describes Sanchez as a “self-labelled feminist” and his women-majority cabinet stands “in contrast to the male-dominated executives of ousted PM Mariano Rajoy”.

Women will take the deputy premiership, as well as economy, finance and justice portfolios.

El Pais says his cabinet choices “send out a strong message about his position on high-profile issues such as Catalan separatism and gender equality”.

Bloomberg says the appointments also show Sanchez “laying out his credentials to be credible on the economy - a strong suit for his predecessor Mariano Rajoy - and enforcing the rule of law in Catalonia”.

“Sanchez faces a battle to establish the legitimacy of his government from the start with the outgoing People’s Party and Ciudadanos accusing him of an unscrupulous power grab last week” adds the news agency.

Sanchez’s position is indeed precarious. His party only has a quarter of the seats in parliament and only won the no confidence vote with the support of six other parties, including Basque and Catalan nationalists.

Yet despite receiving the support of the anti-austerity Podemos party in his attempt to become prime minister, Sanchez has rejected its calls for a place in government, appointing his cabinet from within the ranks of his PSOE party.

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