Government ‘won’t rule out’ grand coalition

The head of Spain's ruling party has said the Spanish government would consider forming a grand coalition "in the German style" with Spain's main opposition party, the Socialists, if it fails to obtain an absolute majority in the upcoming 2015 elections.

Government 'won't rule out' grand coalition
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and the leader of Spain's Socialist party Pedro Sánchez. Photo: Javier Soriano/AFP

Speaking on Spanish TV channel, Telecino, the Popular Party (PP) secretary-general, María Dolores de Cospedal said, "We would contemplate a grand coalition in the German style if we did not reach an absolute majority".

Germany is no stranger to grand coalitions; the country’s Christian Democrat Chancellor, Angela Merkel, currently governs with the support of Germany’s socialist party.

Cospedal's comments come in the wake of the seemingly unstoppable rise of the Spanish political party, Podemos, which has seen a huge surge in popularity this year. The party, less than a year old, has topped the polls of voter intentions in Spanish daily newspapers El País and El Mundo.

Podemos, which means "we can" in Spanish, exploded onto the political scene in May, winning five seats in the European elections, with many corruption-weary Spaniards believing the party is a viable alternative to the two main political parties.

It recently announced it planned to introduce a 35-hour working week, and a guaranteed living 'subsidy' for people without any other income, a step back from earlier plans to bring in a universal minimum wage. 

In a veiled reference to the threat posed by Podemos to Spain's two-party system, Cospedal commented that a coalition would be necessary "not to neutralize anybody…but to guarantee the governability of the country".

However, the head of Spain's socialist party said recently he was not in favour of such a move. 

PSOE secretary-general, Pedro Sanchez, speaking at a forum organized by the Spanish economic newspaper Cinco Días, said it was "healthy" for "governments to have various forms of parliamentary support", but ultimately rejected an eventual coalition with their arch rivals.

The PSOE has in recent times shown itself unwilling to work with the PP with the party refusing to sign a global agreement put forward by the government on the fight against corruption, labelling the initiative as "not to be trusted".

A grand coalition is unheard of in Spain, which has been ruled by either the Socialists or the Popular Party and its predecessors since the fall of the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco with his death in 1975.

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Spain falls further in international corruption league tables

Spain has fallen in the international corruption index for a second consecutive year, coming in 35th place in the world, behind countries such as Botswana and Cape Verde. 

Spain falls further in international corruption league tables

Spain has fallen for a second consecutive year in the 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) by NGO Transparency International, a global ranking of countries based on their perceived corruption.

The CPI uses a 0-100 rating system, with 100 being ‘very clean’ and 0 being ‘highly corrupt’.

Spain dropped one point in 2022, from 61 to 60, and it now sits in 35th place in the world, behind countries such as Botswana and Cape Verde. 

Spain’s score represents a three-point decrease from its 2020 score. 

Within the EU, Spain sits in the middle of the pack in 14th position out of the 27 member states, two points below both Portugal and Lithuania (62/100) and only one point above Latvia (59/100).

Leading Europe (and the world) were Denmark (90/100), who took the top spot in the global ranking, followed by Finland (87/100), New Zealand (87/100), (Norway (84/100), Iceland (74/100) and Sweden (83/100).

The European countries with the lowest scores were Romania (46/100), Bulgaria (43/100) and Hungary (42/100).

Comparing Spain to its neighbours, France received a score of 72/100, Portugal 62/100, and Italy 56/100. Morocco scored 38/100.

READ ALSO: Is Spain as corrupt as it was a decade ago?

Ten countries recorded the lowest score in their history, including the United Kingdom (73/100), which has fallen five points since last year.

Downward trend

According to the CPI report, a one-point decrease in a year is not necessarily statistically significant nor indicative of major institutional corruption, but consecutive annual falls, such as in Spain, are a “clear sign of risk and danger of continuing decline” in the following years.

Spain has been affected, the report states because it received worse scores due to irregular public service payments, exports and imports, and judicial decisions in cases of corruption. Broadly speaking, Spanish politics has been riddled with ongoing corruption scandals for some time, ranging from the national level down to small-town ayuntamientos (town halls).

READ ALSO: Spain to publish names of politicians who refuse to declare their assets

In 2022 Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez defended two former Presidents of Andalusia for their alleged corruption in the ERE scandal, and the ongoing environmental scandal at Murcia’s Mar Menor has also been stained by corruption allegations.

Police forces across Spain are no better. The Catalan Generalitat has investigated several cases of corrupt Mossos in its police force in recent years, and port authorities and Guardia Civil agents across Spain, including Catalonia and Algeciras in Andalusia, have been arrested for taking bribes to turn blind eyes to drug trafficking. 

During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, local mayors across Spain were caught out using their position and influence to queue jump and get vaccinations before vulnerable groups.

Juan Carlos I, the now exiled former King of Spain, has also had his fair share of alleged corruption scandals, including but not limited to the Saudi rail payoff scandal; money hidden in Swiss bank accounts; the mystery credit cards paid off by Mexican businessmen; the €10 million found in a Jersey bank account; and, finally, his goat hunting trip with the President of Kazakhstan in which Juan Carlos left with armfuls of briefcases containing over €5 million in cash.

Despite all that, however, in March 2022 Spanish prosecutors dropped all investigations into his finances.

Worldwide slowdown

The CPI report in general highlighted the fact that the fight against corruption in the world has stagnated, due in part due to the lingering effects of the pandemic at a legal and administrative level, something many governments around the world were able to capitalise on and reduce transparency.

According to the Index, 131 countries have not registered any significant progress in the last decade, and 27 received their lowest-ever scores in 2022.

The countries with the lowest scores in the ranking were Somalia (12/100), Syria (13/100), and South Sudan (13/100).