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This is not normal

The Popular Party’s reluctance to allow parliamentary scrutiny of the bailout reeks of despotism

The news of Spain's request for an EU bank bailout has revealed an alarming slackness in our political muscle tone. The incredible way in which the prime minister has behaved, the lethargy of his own party, which is -- or ought to be, at least -- uneasy about such behavior, and the uncertain attitude of the Socialists, weighed down by their immediate past in government, all reveal a disturbing vacuum of democratic energy.

The first political consequence of the bailout, and of the line of credit for the banks, ought to have been the immediate creation of a parliamentary commission charged with overseeing the management of these rescue loans in detail. The subcommission charged with overseeing the functioning of the Orderly Bank Restructuring Fund (FROB) is not enough. This panel already exists, leading a sleepy existence, but the bailout is too colossal in scale for such a small body of backbenchers.

One thing is the supervision that will be exercised by the EU, in line with its own mechanisms and interests, and quite another the disregard for the Spanish Congress and its functions. The prime minister spoke of the "normality" of the processes now underway. But so far, nothing is normal. So far, no proper commission to determine how we have got into this fix; and no proper commission to oversee what will be done with 100 billion euros.

This is important, because the continued short-circuiting of parliament damages our democratic system and suggests contempt for the public -- an unbearable stench of despotism that this country does not deserve. Mariano Rajoy is right when he says that the bailout is something that has happened in other countries (in different ways). Where he is wrong, and where he is manifestly acting in a way that would not be tolerated in other countries, is in refusing to create those two indispensable commissions and in surrounding the whole process with unnecessary confusion.

One thing is to negotiate with discretion, and another to disregard democratic procedures

The whole process of the crisis in the Spanish financial system has had -- and is still having -- a demoralizing character that is all its own, widely different from what has happened in the US, the UK or other countries. Here we have a government that keeps talking about the truth and the need to face reality, but at the same time repeatedly prevents public knowledge of that reality, and hides the truth from a public of whom it demands continual belt-tightening.

One thing is to negotiate with discretion, and another to disregard democratic procedures, and deceive the citizens as if they were the butt of an amusing joke. If they could not give out certain information at a given moment, they might at least shut up and not play games, or speak of "men in black," lying and confusing. It is clear that this game was addressed not to the interlocutors of the negotiation, who knew what it was about, but to the citizens, who are to be treated like fools.

On Sunday the prime minister deemed fit that he should go to see the Euro 2012 soccer match, almost as if in recompense for the heavy work accomplished in recent weeks. "I am off, because the situation has been resolved." Well, if the situation is resolved then it is the moment to create the two commissions, one of investigation and the other of credit supervision, as a bare minimum of democratic respect demands. Why must there be further waiting? Waiting for what?

Everyone -- including those who voted for the PP -- would like to know what happened, and to know that the supervision of the 100-billion bailout will not be limited to that of the government itself and the Bank of Spain. To be normal it is necessary that, as in other normal countries, it be a parliamentary commission that gives us the information we have a right to, and explains to us just what happened.

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