Although the parliament voted 180-169 on Friday to replace Mr Rajoy’s government with one led by Mr Sanchez, the Socialists have just 84 seats in the 350-seat parliament. Socialist Party leader Pedro Sanchez was sworn in Saturday. Rajoy shook hands with Sanchez after the result was announced, leaving the chamber while lawmakers with the anti-establishment leftist party Podemos shouted “Yes, we can”.
Rajoy’s position has become increasingly untenable, undermined by his status as head of a corruption-tinged minority government as well as a divisive independence drive in the wealthy region of Catalonia.
Rajoy hit back by saying Sanchez was trying to peace together a “Frankenstein” government from various political fractions and reminded the lawmakers Socialist had lost two general elections under Sanchez.
Sanchez filed a no-confidence motion against Rajoy on May 25, a day after a court found former officials of his conservative Popular Party (PP) guilty of running a slush fund.
The initiative was put forward by the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and included a proposal to appoint PSOE Secretary-General Pedro Sanchez as Prime Minister. Podemos has already asked to be part of his new government.
Rajoy on Thursday accused him of “opportunism at the service of personal ambition” while the El Mundo daily lashed out at him as a “leader devoured by ambition”. At the time, Sanchez said the PP was too corrupt to run the country.
Sanchez has vowed to fight corruption and help those Spaniards affected by years of public spending cuts under Rajoy’s government.
It includes substantial benefits for the Basque nationalists whose promised votes in the no-confidence debate opened the door for Mr Sanchez to oust Mr Rajoy.
Still, Mr Sanchez, a basketball player in his youth, had never shown the political savvy to challenge Mr Rajoy.
Rajoy, meanwhile, will become the first Spanish premier to lose a no-confidence vote since the country transitioned to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.
MPs from eight parties voted to dispatch Mr Rajoy six and a half years after his conservative government stormed to power in 2011.
The impending downfall of Rajoy’s government after ruling for almost eight years came just days after the Popular Party’s reputation was badly damaged by a court verdict that identified it as a beneficiary of a large kickbacks-for-contracts scheme. If successful, it would be the first successful no-confidence vote in Spain’s democratic history.
“I’m going to govern from a consensus”, Sanchez told reporters as he left parliament, pledging to modernize Spain.
But any concessions to Catalan separatists could be rejected by members of Sanchez’s own party, the PP and especially Ciudadanos, the centre-right party that is on the rise in opinion polls for its aggressive anti-independence stance.