Spain's new female deputy PM gains huge powers

23rd December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's new deputy prime minister, 40-year-old Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, agreed Friday that she had wide-ranging powers in the new government but said she saw them more as duties.

"I accept I have many duties. I am one of those who thinks you have to speak of duty more than powers," Saenz de Santamaria said in a news conference after the right-leaning government's first cabinet meeting.

"I will do my utmost to handle everything, and if there is something I cannot do I will ask for help."

Much of Spain's press focused on the extraordinary powers entrusted to Saenz de Santamaria -- one of only four women in Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's Popular Party government.

She is the youngest member of the team but won three key posts: deputy prime minister, chief government spokeswoman, and minister of the presidency in charge of relations between the premier's office and parliament.

In a royal decree published Thursday the National Intelligence Service and its reported 3,500 spies, once part of the Defence Ministry, were transferred to Saenz de Santamaria's ministry of the presidency.

It was the first time since Spain's return to democracy after the 1975 death of General Francisco Franco that the spy agency had been removed from the defence ministry.

"Saenz de Santamaria, the youngest minister in the government and the one who wields the most power, will take over a strategic organization for the state that requires delicate management," the daily El Pais said.

"Soraya will be the most powerful women since democracy," headlined the Barcelona-based daily La Vanguardia.

Saenz de Santamaria, a trained lawyer and married mother of a baby born just last month, had been spokeswoman for the Popular Party in the lower house of parliament since 2008.

She is a close ally of the 56-year-old Rajoy, who led his party to a crushing win over the Socialists in November 20 elections. Rajoy's new government was sworn in Thursday and held a first meeting Friday.

© 2011 AFP

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