Socialist party leader Pedro Sanchez is set to become Spain's new prime minister after a no-confidence vote Friday saw the first ouster of a serving leader by parliament in four decades of democracy and brought a rare success for a center-left party in Europe in recent times. Conservative Mariano Rajoy has been in power since December 2011, successfully steering Spain out of its worst economic crisis in decades during the eurozone debt crisis and achieving some of the strongest economic growth in Europe, reports the AP. But the reputation of Rajoy's Popular Party was badly damaged by a court verdict last week that identified it as a beneficiary of a large kickbacks-for-contracts scheme. Sanchez, 46, managed to muster enough support from small leftist and nationalist parties for a no-confidence motion.
As its author, Sanchez will become the new leader as soon as King Felipe VI swears him in. That could happen as early as Saturday, with a Cabinet appointed over the coming days. Sanchez, who's vowed to address Spaniards' "social urgencies" after years of austerity, takes the helm of the 19-country eurozone's fourth-largest economy at a time when the European Union has to resolve numerous problems, including the UK’s departure from the bloc and political tension over migrants continuing to enter the continent from North Africa. On the domestic front, Sanchez will head a minority government that will likely need to negotiate potentially difficult deals with other parties to get its legislation passed. The Madrid stock exchange was up 1.8% after Sanchez won the vote and earned a standing ovation from his party's lawmakers. (Read more Spain stories.)