MADRID (Reuters) - Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy named a new education minister to replace the unpopular incumbent on Thursday after the ruling party suffered heavy losses in regional and local elections one month ago.
Rajoy, whose conservative leadership is under fire ahead of a general election, had flagged changes in the cabinet for weeks but it had become unclear whether those changes would materialize.
Last week he announced a series of secondary changes to the ruling People's Party (PP), of which he is also leader, naming his chief of staff, Jorge Moragas, as campaign manager.
Rajoy has been criticized from inside and outside his party for campaigning on a recovering economy and playing down that many ordinary Spaniards were worse off under his administration, with unemployment affecting one in four.
A government statement said that Inigo Mendez de Vigo will be sworn in as Education, Culture and Sports Minister on Friday to replace Jose Ignacio Wert.
Spanish media had reported that Wert, consistently rated in opinion polls as one of Rajoy's most unpopular ministers, wanted to step down for personal reasons. The changes he made in the education law united parents, teachers, university professors and unions against them.
Mendez de Vigo up to now has been European Union Secretary, a secondary ministerial post.
Spain will hold a general election this year, expected in the last quarter. Opinion polls show that the PP may win but fall short of a majority needed to form a government as the electorate fragments over four big parties.
Reporting by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Grant McCool