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

Reform in slow motion

The PP government proposes small changes in party financing after the “Bárcenas case”

Late in the summer of 2011, a few weeks were sufficient to pass an amendment to the Spanish Constitution incorporating the so-called golden rule on budget deficits. However, it has taken a whole year to bring forth a parliamentary bill based on the set of anticorruption measures promised by Mariano Rajoy in February 2013, after the scandal arising from the “Bárcenas case.” And after so much time consumed in producing this new system of regulating the economic and financial activity of Spain’s political parties, it cannot be said that the result conveys a very strong message against corruption — the problem that the Spanish public considers to be today’s most important issue, after unemployment.

The general aim of the bill is to limit the channels by which political parties receive private financing. To this end it prohibits the cancelling of bank debts (a channel widely used in recent decades) and also donations from companies given directly to parties. However, a door remains open to donations from foundations. At the same time, the bill attempts to achieve a little more transparency by forcing the publication on the internet of the names of individuals who make donations or legacies of more than 50,000 euros to the political parties — or even of smaller quantities, depending on negotiation during the bill’s passage through parliament.

However, the government’s bill is very weak in terms of mechanisms for control and sanctions. The monitoring of the system is still confided to the Court of Auditors, without introducing any more professional controls in the hands of an independent authority or external auditors. The bill still features the proposal, already announced, of organizing an annual appearance of the party treasurers before the parliament — the practical effects of which are very doubtful.

The government’s bill is very weak in terms of mechanisms for control and sanctions

The underlying problem is the culture of spending that has established itself within the country’s main political organizations, especially those that are fiercely competitive because the possibility of holding power is at stake. Nor would it be responsible to trivialize the activities of the parties, which in constitutional terms act as channels for political participation, though in practice they operate as companies and, like these, suffer the effects of the crisis. In recent years the public subsidies they receive has been sharply cut back, and now the private channels of financing are to be curtailed, so that they must either reduce their spending or remain continually exposed to the temptation of resorting to legal subterfuges.

During the passage of the bill through parliament there will have to be some clarification of the role to be played by foundations linked to political parties; these organizations, in principle, being subject to fewer requisites than the parties they are associated with.

To produce any serious overhaul of the rules regulating political organizations there would need to be a general consensus, which at present looks very difficult to achieve, especially at a time when various important elections are in the offing. The measures approved by the Cabinet on February 21 are certainly not to be sniffed at, but fall far short of constituting, in the government’s words, a “key to democratic regeneration.”

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
_
_