The article based on the findings from Transparency International on its Global corruption Barometer was squeezed in at the bottom of the Spanish newspaper. This isn’t because the editor thought it unimportant it is just that the reports on the various corruption cases engulfing the centre right Partido Popular left little space.
Likewise there just isn’t space in this article to even given an overview of such cases as “Gürtel” and “Bárcenas”, which lead to the very top of the governing PP. However I will mention that Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is pretending the “Bárcenas” case, revolving around former PP treasurer Luis Bárcenas and his numerous secret accounts abroad, simply did not happen. This despite Rajoy possibly being a beneficiary of part of these funds and refusing to sack Bárcenas when he took over from José María Aznar. Meanwhile Aznar has offered to come back and save the nation from the crisis and Rajoy even though Bárcenas was his treasurer and the Aznar links to this corruption case go very deep indeed. The PP now has major figures such as Esperanza Aguirre calling on Rajoy to recognise the irregularities and to undertake an internal party reform – “because Spain needs a clean PP”. Some hope.
Aguirre was speaking inside the PP’s regional executive meeting in Madrid. Outside were some 500 protestors calling for Rajoy to resign. There were cries of “PP, thieves, we want resignations” and “Rajoy and Cospedal, to Soto del Real”, Cospedal is the secretary general of the PP and president of Castilla-La Mancha regional government: the Soto del Real a prison where Bárcenas is being held.
So what does the Spanish man and woman on the street make of all this? Not a lot: indeed the majority view political corruption as being one of the major problems facing Spain.
In the CIS opinion polls in 2013 corruption has been at either number two or three in the preoccupations of Spaniards. This has been borne out by the Transparency International Global Barometer with 114,000 people being questioned in 107 countries.
According to Transparency International Spain is one of the countries where corruption is perceived to be “a very serious problem”. Spain scores 4.5 out of 5 on the corruption rating whereas the international average is 4.1. Spain is also third amongst European countries where corruption is a major concern to citizens after Greece and Portugal.
Nor has the corruption stopped: indeed Spaniards believe it has grown since 2011. Two out of three Spaniards questioned were indignant over the corruption levels (the famous “Los Indignados” of street protests) which is far higher than the international average of 53 per cent.
Spaniards are in no doubt of where the corruption lies. A staggering 83 per cent point to the political parties followed closely by Parliament itself. In contrast the worldwide view is that the major focuses of corruption are the police and civil servants – public employees and not politicians.
The problem for Spain’s political parties is that it is not just the Partido Popular that is immersed in sleaze. The opposition socialist PSOE, which has its own numerous corruption cases, is viewed in a similar light. Hence PSOE’s reluctance to try and force the PP to call an election over the Bárcenas scandal. The socialists have called on Rajoy to resign but for the PP to stay in government.
One party to be viewed favourably is Izquierda Unida which has been picking up votes largely at the expense of PSOE. However even the IU’s hands are not clean with recent corruption scandals in two small municipalities on the Costa del Sol – Casares and Manilva – which have in recent years seen the far left party in control of their respective town halls.
(The above article appeared in the London Progressive Journal on July 11 2013 with versions in other publications).