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Time to sit down and make a deal

The political parties have to resolve, once and for all, the impasse in important institutions

The severity of the crisis in Spain, and the criticisms of the Rajoy government on the part of the European Commission and European Central Bank (ECB), heighten the sensation of breakdown in Spanish institutions. No solution to the crisis of the euro is in sight, and serious difficulties are festering in several Spanish institutional bodies. A strange state of affairs, only six months after general elections. Apart from what the EU can do about the financial crisis, the normal functioning of government in Spain has to be rapidly reestablished.

The present administration seems to be swamped by the situation. The results are a far cry from the electoral promises made by the Popular Party (PP), to the effect that its mere arrival in power would automatically roll back the recession. Rajoy has a clear parliamentary majority, but has found that this is not enough to get the country out of the crisis. More help is needed, including that of the Socialists (PSOE) and probably of CiU and PNV, which are mainstream parties in their respective regions. To contain the deterioration of the institutions, it is time for them to reach a pact.

Particularly important is the question of the Bank of Spain: due not only to the financial crisis, but to the PP’s stubbornness in attacking the outgoing governor, while stubbornly insisting that a change of personnel is sufficient to recover “lost prestige.” This narrow sectarian attitude is out of place, and the prime minister ought to have nipped it in the bud. It is not a matter of putting a friend in the Bank of Spain, but the most competent man. All this, without losing sight of the uncertain road map sketched by the European Commission and by the ECB, in the sense of creating a banking system on a Europe-wide scale, and centralizing the authority entrusted with its control. This would imply an important cession of sovereignty, when no Europe-wide economic power is yet in sight — but in any case, it is a question which is simply too big for any one political party.

In the case of the General Council of the Judiciary, the PSOE-PP consensus on the appointment of the present members is being spoken of as a failure of the parties. Again, this needs some qualification. What they need to do is sit down and find a more satisfactory solution. So, too, with the Constitutional Court, some of whose members are long overdue for replacement and have threatened “drastic measures” if something is not done to replace them. The Congress, whose function it is to choose new members, has too low a profile, the PP majority being resigned to act as a mere instrument of the government.

In the face of this institutional deterioration, the democratic system has to be galvanized. It is hard to conceive of the political parties as an instrument for correcting what they themselves have so badly mishandled, but no one else can do it. The voters have given them the authority; they must show themselves capable of reestablishing the prestige of the institutions, as a first step towards reestablishing confidence in the country.

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