Yolanda Díaz will be third vice-president and will keep the labour portfolio

Calviño to become second vice-president

3 min
The Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, in a speech to Congress

MadridYolanda Díaz will be the new third vice-president of the Spanish government and will keep the labour portfolio when the current second vice-president, Pablo Iglesias, leaves the administration to become a Podemos candidate in the regional elections in Madrid on 4 May. According to government sources quoted by EFE, Podemos would have agreed to lose the second vice-presidency in exchange for keeping the Labour portfolio, one of the portfolios with the greatest social and political weight.

This was the condition that Pedro Sánchez had imposed on Iglesias at the last minute: if Díaz continued as Labour Minister, Podemos would have to cede the second vice-presidency to prevent Díaz from being placed above the Economy Minister, Nadia Calviño, in the governmental organisation chart. The PSOE sector of the Spanish government did not like the idea of Yolanda Díaz, whose views often clashed with Calviño's, accumulating so much power in the executive. With this agreement between Podemos and the PSOE, Calviño will become the second vice-president.

The leader of Podemos announced by surprise this Monday that he was resigning as minister to run as a candidate in the regional elections in Madrid on May 4. His resignation, which he communicated to the other members of the government shortly before making it public, will force Sánchez to make some adjustments to the executive, which in principle will be limited to changes in the vice-presidencies and the incorporation into the executive of the secretary of state for the 2030 Agenda, Ione Belarra, as minister for Social Rights to replace Iglesias.

Yesterday afternoon, sources in the Moncloa assured that there were still "details to be finalised" regarding the reshuffle of the Spanish government, and no member of the government wanted to say whether the president would name Yolanda Díaz second vice-president and accept that she would remain in charge of the Labour portfolio, as proposed by Unidas Podemos. Sources close to Iglesias, on the other hand, took it for granted.

The discrepancy was not minor: Podemos did not want to give up the second vice-presidency, which was part of the government agreement between the two parties. The minister spokesperson, María Jesús Montero, had already made it clear that the agreement had not been finalised in the afternoon, when she avoided commenting on the reshuffle of the administration. "It is exclusively up to the president of the government" to announce the changes, she said. In principle, the transfer of portfolios will not take place until 20 April, when Iglesias will tender his resignation.

Sanchez will communicate the changes "when the date approaches," Montero stressed to insistent questions from journalists. The spokeswoman, however, wanted to make it clear that the departure of the second vice president is not a "change of course" for the coalition government and that Sanchez will not call a snap election. "It has no implication in relation to the Spanish government's plans. We have a lot of work to do", Montero said.

"Cordial" meeting

Sanchez and Iglesias met "briefly" this Tuesday after the council of ministers to address his departure from the government. According to government sources, the meeting was "cordial" and the two leaders are "in agreement" with the changes that have to be made in the executive, but there are some pending issues, which have not been specified. Other sources in the executive have pointed out that it is unlikely that the president of the government modifies "structures" of the executive, but they do not rule out that Sanchez may reject the changes proposed by Podemos.

Podemos proposes that Diaz stays on as Minister of Labour and that the secretary of state for the 2030 Agenda, Ione Belarra, joins the executive as Minister for Social Rights. Díaz is the best valued minister by Podemos voters and is expected to take over from Iglesias, not only in the Spanish government, but also as party leader.

Although for now neither the president of the Spanish government nor the spokeswoman of the executive have formally confirmed that Díaz will assume the second vice presidency and stay on as Minister of Labour, she herself announced it on Twitter on Monday.