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What can we expect from Madrid's enforcer?

The woman appointed to be Madrid’s enforcer in Catalonia went back to work just 11 days after giving birth to her son in 2011.

Soraya Saenz de Santamaria sparked a national debate about the balance between motherhood and career when, within a week of having her son Ivan, the deputy leader of the Popular Party was back at work, at a campaign rally in Madrid.

It’s just one of the things that has gained her a reputation as a powerful and capable politician, and cemented her role as PM Mariano Rajoy’s preferred crisis manager.

An only child, Saenz de Santamaria grew up in Valladidod, and graduated in law in 1994.

Her father’s family owned a brick factory, while her mother’s father was a baker.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (R) talks with Spanish Vice Prime Minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid on June 13
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PM Mariano Rajoy (R) talks with his deputy, Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid on 13 June

The 46-year-old has previously said her upbringing as an only child led to her independence and fuelled a love of reading.

She was first elected with the Popular Party (PP) in 2004, but the party didn’t win overall power that year, following poor handling of the Madrid terror attack.

When the party came back into power in 2011, she was at the forefront, and was named the deputy prime minister in Mr Rajoy’s government.

La Vanguardia, the Barcelona-based paper, called her the most powerful woman “since democracy” when she was appointed.

In 2015, she was named one of Europe’s five most powerful women by Global Post, which predicted she would be called upon to help lead the conservative fightback.

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Soraya Saenz de Santamaria (R) arrives for a session of the Upper House of Parliament in Madrid
Image:
Soraya Saenz de Santamaria (R) arrives for a session of the Upper House of Parliament in Madrid

Though her colleagues have suffered corruption scandals, she has remained largely untainted and emerged unscathed, with better poll ratings than other PP ministers.

In her time as deputy, she has been placed in charge of issues as diverse as the ebola crisis, and the Germanwings plane crash.

Her next challenge will be convincing those who voted for independence they were misguided. In the days before Spain imposed direct rule on Catalonia, she told the Spanish Senate: “We have to rescue it.”

She has been critical of the leaders of Catalonia in the past, and some suggest her loyalty to the Prime Minister will mean she largely makes his policies appear more palatable.

According to DW.com, she said police force against protesters was ‘proportionate’.

A Huffington Post article claims Saenz de Santamaria is a fan of Amy Winehouse and Coldplay, and likes to be the DJ at parties. She also enjoys Ian McEwan novels.

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