MADRID (AFP) - Spain’s parliament voted to make conservative leader Mariano Rajoy the new prime minister on Tuesday, tasked with saving the country from economic crisis. Members of the 350-seat lower house Congress voted by a majority of 187 to install Rajoy, whose Popular Party won an absolute majority in November 20 general elections. The speaker of the house, Jesus Posada, declared Rajoy the winner after members of parliament stood up one by one to declare their votes, with 149 voting against him and 14 abstaining. Rajoy, 56, hugged and kissed fellow party members and shook hands with deputies.

“I know that things are going to be difficult, but I am keen, I have hope and determination to take Spain forward,” Rajoy told reporters as he left the parliament.

Rajoy said he would announce his government after he is sworn in by King Juan Carlos on Wednesday.

Government ministers will formally take office Thursday and will hold a first cabinet meeting the next day.

The grey-bearded leader faces urgent pressure to fix Spain’s economy, with five million people unemployed and warnings of a fresh recession looming.

In a speech to parliament on Monday, Rajoy gave the first details of how he plans to create jobs, clean up banks and reassure investors that he can stabilise Spain’s finances.

He vowed to slash the public deficit by 16.5 billion euros ($21.5 billion) through public spending cuts, with only pensions escaping the knife.

“A government cannot do absolutely everything,” Rajoy said Tuesday after the parliamentary vote.

“A government is there to create conditions for people to be more free, so that people can work and generate well-being, wealth and jobs.”