Anyone seeking insight into obstacles facing the cause of open government in Spain could take as the perfect case study our beloved Comunidad de Madrid. Yesterday was just another normal day down in La Puerta del Sol. An opposition member of the regional assembly, José Cepeda, went to the archives department to exercise his right to see the documentation concerning the digital television franchises which Espe's administration has handed out in recent years to an assortment of her political allies. The archives are housed, rather spookily, in the same place where Franco's secret police used to hold their prisoners.
Cepeda had only lodged his request a year ago, so things were moving quite fast. Admittedly, he had already tried to see the documentation on Friday but had been refused on the all too reasonable grounds that he was accompanied by another elected member of the same regional assembly. Yesterday, he finally got to see the documentation....a lot of it. But then when he asked for copies of the parts that interested him he was refused on the grounds of "superior orders". So he stood his ground, and sent out a message on Twitter which rapidly started to spread. Finally, after 8 hours of waiting he was able to get the copies that he had requested. This, we need to repeat, is the case of an elected member of the parliament. Had it been a journalist or even, god forbid, one of the voters who had asked for access to the documents you can easily imagine that one year would turn out to be a short time in Madrid politics.
Meanwhile La Lideresa passed a happy Dos de Mayo celebration with the publication of an opinion poll showing that she is still on course to maintain her control of the region despite Gürtel, spies and her commitment to the maximum lack of transparency in government. Nevertheless, the poll shows her losing votes - something which is not to her credit if you take into account that the PP at national level has been steadily building an advantage against the government. The lost votes are not going to the PSOE or Izquierda Unida, the poll shows UPyD entering the regional assembly for the first time. Madrid after all being the stronghold for their kind of nationalist and centralist politics. Aguirre's supporters have tried to pretend over the last few years that she attracts more votes for the PP than Madrid mayor Gallardón and they have also made much of the fact that Mariano Rajoy has such a slender lead in the polls. Their arguments no longer look so solid if the Madrid PP vote starts to decline at a time when it should be hitting new highs.
Aguirre continues to benefit from a weak opposition, and we still don't know who will be her official opponent for the PSOE in next year's election. Regional PSOE leader Tomas Gómez has not made a strong impact, and didn't help his cause this week by sparking a row with the national party after he accused José Blanco of being too friendly to Aguirre. Internal PSOE dissidents can be threatened with disciplinary measures if they speak too publicly, but there have been outbreaks of criticism of the ineffective opposition campaign led by Gómez. Meanwhile, Izquierda Unida - which takes 10% of the vote in Madrid - has had its own problems. Inés Sabanés, who was very well respected beyond the confines of IU's supporters, was removed as candidate for the next elections in an internal coup launched by more hardline sectors. In neither party have calls for primary elections for party members to choose candidates been heeded. It's not just open government that we need.