These are the responsibility of the editor and convey the newspaper's view on current affairs-both domestic and international

A clear, convincing explanation

Rajoy must not miss the opportunity to rectify errors, and to state his plans for the future

The prime minister is appearing today before Congress to give explanations on the accusations of irregular financing and other accounting anomalies in the governing Popular Party (PP), which the party’s former treasurer has brought to light.

It is precisely the scandal sparked by the Bárcenas papers that lies behind this parliamentary appearance, and any attempt to generalize or mask it with other political issues — be it the economy, the unemployment problem or whatever — will only further erode the already low level of credibility that has blighted his government and his party since the scandal came to light.

The impression is that the prime minister’s chief advisor in these matters, Pedro Arriola — himself implicated in the Bárcenas accusations — has been using a strategy of this sort, rather in his own defense than that of his clients.

The string of mistakes committed by the ruling party in dealing with the Bárcenas case already produces a feeling of embarrassment in any observer of politics.

Hopefully we shall not see a repetition of pathetic gaffes such as that of denying everything “except a few things,” or of inventing creative legal formulas hitherto unknown to the labor market, such as “deferred severance pay.” And of course no one can believe that time will help to smooth over this problem, which is already the object of a judicial procedure.

Little good can come of the apparent though still limited signs of improvement in the Spanish economy, should the crisis of public confidence in our country’s democratic institutions persist. It is indispensable for Mariano Rajoy to address decisively and squarely not only the murky Bárcenas affair, but above all the need for a clear impulse toward democratic regeneration in the country’s structures of government.

The Crown, the political parties, the Constitutional Court, the administration of justice, the unions and the organization of the welfare state — it is the whole system that is now under a shadow in the eyes of public opinion. It is this concern, sharply aggravated by the Bárcenas papers and the government’s reaction to them, that Rajoy must address in clear terms today without artful dodges, and with the humility and sincerity that we have a right to expect from a prime minister who has received the endorsement of the voters.

What is not, and was never in question, is the prime minister’s personal honesty. The question, rather, is his responsibilities as prime minister and as leader of the party, when it comes to investigating and sanctioning the irregularities occurring within that party. It is not possible for the ongoing business of the government, which has carried through several notable reforms — whose results, however, are slow in appearing — to remain conditioned, throughout the two years that remain of the legislature, by a grotesque tug-of-war between the credibility of our nation’s leaders and the taunts cheerfully proffered by a lawbreaker, who is defended and applauded by others of the same nature.

Apart from admitting to the long-standing confidence now betrayed by his party’s former treasurer, Rajoy has the opportunity to confess that his party has benefited from irregular financing and to promise an independent investigation, as well as committing himself to taking the measures necessary to prevent its repetition.

What is going to be indispensable in this connection is a profound reform of the financing of political parties, as this newspaper has repeatedly called for. The Rajoy Cabinet ought to bring before Congress as soon as possible a bill to this effect; which, together with the necessary changes in the Electoral Law, and in the organization of the parties themselves, would help to restore public faith in our systems of political representation.

Joint responsibility

The governing party is not the only one sullied by irregular practices, now or in the past. Hence the probable temptation to use the debate to counter-attack and to deal political blows. But to engage in a crossfire of imprecations would be a grave mistake that must not be made, either by those on the government benches or by those of the opposition. The whole political class has to admit to joint responsibility for 25 years of irregular functioning of our system of political representation, which has propitiated the spread of corruption that is fast threatening to become systemic.

All this may seem to be a huge task, or even beyond the capabilities of the present leaders; but it the only way to overcome this general discredit which, if it continues, threatens to bring the whole system to a state of collapse. It is up to the PP to correct the worsening instability, and to use its clear majority in tasks more useful than that of blocking the motions of parliamentary minorities and dodging problems.

It was precisely the threat of a non-confidence motion brought by the PSOE, combined with a new plunge in the opinion polls, that finally made Rajoy take the step of appearing in Congress. It is grave enough that neither he nor his party seem to understand that there is not only a moral but a political obligation involved in keeping parliament regularly informed of the government’s actions, whether or not the government enjoys a clear majority.

Prime Minister Rajoy now has in front of him a major opportunity for the rectification of past errors, and for mapping out a course for the future that is obviously difficult, but possible. A course that will inevitably have to be shared, in the essential questions that affect the health of our democracy, by the rest of the political parties.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS