Sat Dec 24th, 2011 at 04:26:06 AM EST
Spain has a new Government since this week. The investiture vote was on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday the Cabinet swore their positions, and yesterday there was a first Council of Ministers.
The government is relatively small, with only 13 ministers and only one vice-president. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy hasn't felt the need to pay back favours or accommodate political families within his party and so the government is composed of faithful, technocrats and safe hands. Rajoy has separated the Finance and Economy ministries and will take for himself the Economic vice-presidency to mediate between the two ministers. In this area, he has brought the traditional Ministry for Public Administrations under Finance, and Research and Development (dropping the old Science label) under Economy. However, what's become clear is who the real person to watch is in this government, and it's not Rajoy but Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría. Here's her with a look on her face like she's just stolen her portfolio:
Jokes aside, for a long time she has been the PP's spokesperson and will be the government's (Rajoy does not like press conferences), she has been Rajoy's right-hand aide (and she will be Minister for the Presidency - a sort of Chief of Staff - and the only Vice-President in a country that for the past 15 years had become used to two and even 3 vice presidents). In addition, Rajoy has taken the National Intelligence Centre out from under the Ministry of Defence and under Presidency. Much has been made of the fact that "Soraya will control the spies", but aside from the important and under-commented fact of making intelligence a civilian function, it's clearly intended that all important information flows directly to Rajoy through a person of his utmost trust, and not through the Ministry of Defence.
But there are some indications that Soraya is more than just a trusted aide, but actually the brain of the government. Apart from the functions of Chief of Staff, Spokeswoman, and information filter, she was actually in charge of the transfer of power from the old government, she personally audited every outgoing ministry and she wrote the resulting internal PP report. Therefore, she already knows more than any other minister about the state of the country, and more in-depth than Rajoy himself. Coupled with the fact that she helped redesign the breakdown of ministries in the new government and her functions in it, one cannot help but suspect that Rajoy will be just a figurehead. Authoritative, but with the real initiative with Soraya, including the media limelight which Rajoy himself shuns.