Friday, October 30, 2009

Corruption Keeps The Judges Busy

It's disgraceful. Nothing more than a brutal persecution of some decent politicians by a politically motivated judge acting on the orders of the government. Who will put an end to this shameful witch hunt carried out by Baltasar Garzón against our democratically elected representatives? Oh's not the PP involved in this one is it? That's ok then, justice must be allowed to take its course and the judges decisions must always be respected.

At least in Cataluña they can argue that they don't let ideology and petty party differences get in the way when it comes to municipal corruption. Those arrested a few days ago on Garzon's orders include prominent figures from the PSC, Catalan wing of the PSOE, and from the nationalists of Convergencia i Unio. Like many other corruption cases in Spain, the main source of income has been the commissions that get paid when almost worthless land suddenly, and mysteriously, gets reclassified as suitable for building. Following the logic of the early days of Gürtel there should now be demands that somebody not connected to the case resigns. How about Mariano Rajoy? That proposal would even attract support from within his own party.

The case in Cataluña comes hot on the heels of another one in the Almerian town of El Ejido. At the heart of that case is the mayor of the town, Juan Enciso, who had already earned himself a reputation as a nasty piece of work following the anti-immigrant riots there a few years ago. His attitude towards the immigrant labour force whose work made the town wealthy was summarised in a phrase along the lines of "there are never enough of them at 8 in the morning, and always too many by 8 in the evening". Not a person to shed any tears for, Enciso seems to have managed to turn El Ejido into his own personal property.

El País told us yesterday morning that there is "desolación" in the Spanish parliament in the face of the growing number of corruption cases coming to the surface following the property boom. Clearly this feeling is still not so strong that either of the two major parties feel the need to legislate against corruption. In fact I suspect they will probably feel better after a good lunch or two and their sense of desolación certainly wasn't enough to stop them from voting down a motion that would oblige them to declare their assets. It's hard not to avoid the impression that what really causes the most pain is that there are some judges prepared to investigate these cases.


moscow said...


Next year is not going to be a boring year either. Once I predicted here on this blog that neiher Rajoy or Aguirre stood a chance of becoming Spain's next president. I wonder, am I still right on that one? Within the PP now, anything, virtually anything could happen.

There is a need to reform the whole political system, without which I am afraid Spain will become another Italy - if it isn't that already.

The electoral system needs to be changed. Open lists perhaps?
There needs to be a re-balancing of parliamnet seat allocation, so that national parties like IU or UPyD get a fairer share of the vote.

I would suggest separating the executive and the legislative power at local and regional level, as is the case in the USA and Germany. There should be a civil service not subject to party politics, with representatives elected directly or through a wider consensus.

Spain needs a moderate centrist party. The right-wingers need to be separated from the right-of-centre moderates. The PP englobes too many differing strands, and as it is today it cannot atract enough moderate centrists or left-of-centre votes. If the PP can't transform itself (you would probably say that is because it has the original sin of having been founded by francoists), then another party should take on that mantle, by cornering the PP to the right.

The judiciary's independence needs to be enhanced. There needs to be a clear separation of the judicial power from the legislative and the executive.

And finally, but not least, the constitution needs reforming.
The monarchy made more accountable.
Perhaps, the present electoral circumscription system needs to be changed, so as to make electoral results more representative of the country as a whole. Regional (nationalist) politics should be circumscribed to the Senate.

10 years? 20?

Troy said...

As moscow has said, what is necessary here in Spain is some sort of judiciary independence. Ubtil then, the Berlusconi-like aspect here in Spain will be revealed little by little.

While we all know that Rajoy and gang are ranting loons, I think that there might be some truth behind their statements that their party is being investigated more than others.

Those arrested up in Cataluña might be sacrificial lambs in order for it to seem like there is some sort of evenness going on.

Because if there were truly broad apolitical investigations going on, half the mayors of Extremadura and Andalusia would be playing cards in jail by now.

ejh said...

Huesca, as it happens, is absolutely chock full of unoccupied and often unfinished blocks of flats. It is also the sort of towns where everybody knows everybody else and connections between politicians, magistrates and business don't need to be made, as it were - they exist already.

Graeme said...


I agree on Aguirre's chances - but Rajoy isn't dead yet. He may survive just because his main potential rivals fall by the wayside. Camps is no longer a contender and Gallardón still has very strong internal opposition.

I don't think Spain is like Italy, although there are parts of the country that start to resemble an Italian situation. But the problem of Italy wouldn't be solved by the sort of reforms you propose, if people are prepared to vote for someone who changes the law every time he's threatened with prosecution then what do you do? Italy has independent prosecutors but they haven't been enough. The most worrying thing about Italy is the way in which it suggests that people become comfortable with the permanent presence of massive corruption and organised crime.

Given the apparent inability to even change a comma in the Spanish Constitution I think a few less dramatic measures could be taken to make life harder for the corrupt at municipal level. Transparency in contracts and decision making, a Freedom of Information Act that would allow the press access to much of what goes on, obligatory declarations of assets by politicians, a system of municipal financing that doesn't depend on construction, a serious crack down on tax fraud. All of that could take just as long to implement as your proposals.

On things like the independence of the judiciary I'm cynical, the judiciary in many countries is overwhelmingly conservative with a small or large "C". The system of choosing judges in Britain used to so opaque that nobody could really explain how it worked in any text book sense. It probably still is. The separation of powers works much better in theory than it does in practice.

On the electoral system the main beneficiaries of the current system are not the nationalists - that's an urban legend - but the PSOE and the PP. Which is why there is little possibility of any quick change. Open lists would be a good idea, but they don't deal with corruption. At best they permit more open debate within a party. Spain in my opinion already has a moderate centrist party - it's called the PSOE! I think that splitting the difference between the PP and the PSOE would produce a more moderate right of centre party, it all depends which angle you look at things from. As for the monarchy, the only reform that makes any sense to me is called a republic.


I don't think there is any evidence that the PP is beong investigated more than other parties, that just forms part of their victimista defence of the corrupt. The latest case in Cataluña is hardly a token gesture, it's a major scandal and affects at least medium level political figures there. All of which is not to say that there aren't plenty of other candidates for investigation. It was the PP in power who acted to disable the anti-corruption prosecutors, claiming that there was no longer any need for them!

moscow said...

I agree with your suggestions on fighting corruption. And the ones you mention can yield results in even less time than the ones I suggested.

I find it difficult to comment on Italy. I honestly do not understand Italy at all. But I still don't think there is something unavoidably cultural about it. Reform succeeded in stamping out corruption in other countries in the past. Town councils in the USA were notoriusly corrupt in the early days of the 20th century. The power of the mayors to hire subordinates and dispense favours was then curtailed by creating the figure of an executive director, independent of party politics. Someone calculated mayors in Spain name on average directly 150 posts, in the US only two or three. Too many people are interested in keeping the incumbent at any cost come the next election.

Are you sure there is nobody else within the PP? Feijoo, Cospedal, Pons,.....Soraya? Aguirre could do a "Heseltine", wield the knife, fail to reach her ultimate aim but inadvertedy open up the field for someone else, a younger candidate, someone capable of raising some enthusiasm. I still can't see Rajoy making it. Nobody really believes in him. And even if he gets to the starting line at the next election, ZP could still beat him.

PSOE might well be moderate centrist (sort of), but certainly not moderate right-of-centre. That is what Spain is lacking at the moment. So what we have is a moderate social-democratic party, and a right-wing populist party. There is an imbalance there. Most people in Spain abhor the radical conservatism of sections of the PP. Interestingly, one thing the PSOE has not yet dared doing is cancel the "Concordato" with the Vatican. In this and other things they are truly moderate, timorous even.

There has only been one feeble attempt to change the constitution so far. I am sure this issue will be back on the agenda sooner or later.

Granted that changing the electoral system will not happen in detriment of the major parties. But a scheme that allows IU and UPyD to increase their number of seats at the expense of PNV and CiU, is plausible. It might not be fair - according to you- but I am personally not particulaly concerned, mainly because I couldn't care less about the nationalists. I think they have had enough of their share of the cake already. At least IU (the ideology of which I do not share) is a nationwide party, which aims to serve the interests of the country as a whole, not narrow regionalist ones.

I am not fond of the monarchy either. But Europe has it's fair share of well managed 'monarchies', and also quite a few disastrously run republics. But I agree the status of the king has got to be changed. We will have to wait until the present one is dead - or abdicates. The next one will not get the same degree of deference.

Graeme said...


On the electoral system - it's easy to do a rough calculation by dividing the number of votes for each party by the number of seats they won. In the last election the PNV is the only nationalist party that you could really argue is over represented, perhaps by one seat. All the other nationalist parties required more votes per seat won than either the PP or the PSOE. Replacing one unfair system by another unfair one that discriminates only against nationalist parties would do wonders for the pro-independence movement in the Basque Country and Cataluña.

David said...

No need to go all the way to the Himalayas to get blistered feet and a sore tummy...enjoy!

Graeme said...

Thanks for the link David, but I'm a "tea-house" trekker these days. All that stuff about chains to stop you from falling and sleeping on floors doesn't do it for me. Nepal is luxury compared to this.