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Political stability in jeopardy

The imprisonment of Luis Bárcenas has entrenched the PP in an unproductive silence

The stability of the government of Spain cannot be jeopardized by those who appear to have done the reigning political party’s dirty work, as well as having profited from it. There is a great deal of fear in the governing party that former treasurer Luis Bárcenas will turn on the Popular Party, now that he has been sent to prison without bail as a consequence of the judicial proceedings against him. The prime minister and the PP are no longer willing to stick their necks out for their former collaborator, as they once did. But the imprisonment of someone who enjoyed the party’s full confidence throughout many years — during which time he accumulated and concealed a fortune that in 2007 was estimated at 48 million euros — cannot be dismissed without explanations.

The PP’s reaction to the jailing of Bárcenas has so far been limited to brief expressions of respect for the judicial decision and, from Mariano Rajoy, a skeptical remark about Bárcenas’ scant ability to blackmail him. In the face of the evidence concerning the crimes allegedly committed by the PP’s former treasurer, some of them punishable by up to six years in jail, this is not enough.

If Bárcenas betrayed the party’s confidence, then an explicit apology is the very least the party owes to the public. And if his activities were carried out with the complicity of others within the party, then those involved must be identified, and resignations should follow.

The PP’s reaction to the jailing of Bárcenas has so far been limited to brief expressions of respect for the judicial decision

In the event that the party’s internal control mechanisms were deficient, then some intention of rectification has to be seen. But no steps of this sort seem to be underway within the leadership of the PP. In February it proclaimed a new policy of transparency, which has so far amounted to little more than the publication of the prime minister’s income tax statement, some other data of a very general nature, and the relegation of everything else to a future Transparency Law. There has been no mention of external auditing, nor of voluntary publication of detailed accounts. As with all the political parties affected by corruption, the PP, too, seems to forget the privileged position accorded to it by the Constitution, and the public funds it receives. Nor is it a valid excuse to point out that, given the results of the opinion polls, corruption is not punished at the ballot box. In any case, it seems clear that the first political victim of this scandal is the PP’s claim to be preparing a project of “democratic regeneration.”

The financial crisis, the secession movement in Catalonia, and the pending reforms — of the pension system and of the public administration — are the matters on which the government’s attention ought to be centered. It must set aside the vain and unproductive hope that the storm connected with the Gürtel corruption case will somehow blow over with the passage of time. The case has many tentacles, involving enrichment of companies by means of public contracts, whose adjudication was presumably fixed by persons in the PP, and the alleged irregular financing of the party, that was brought to light in the “Bárcenas papers.” To allow these problems to fester in the dark will only serve to make the pestilence spread further.

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