Spanish king to meet parties in fresh bid to end deadlock

Spain's king will hold another round of talks with the country's political parties in a last-ditch bid to get them to form a coalition and avoid fresh elections, the royal palace said on Tuesday.

Spanish king to meet parties in fresh bid to end deadlock
King Felipe will meet with all parties again. Photo: AFP

King Felipe VI will on April 25th and 26th meet separately with the leaders of parties that won seats in parliament at an inconclusive December general election, the palace said in a statement.

If the parties are unable to propose a candidate for a prime minister with enough support to pass a vote of confidence in parliament, the king will dissolve the assembly and call fresh elections, it added.

The December 20th polls put an end to the traditional two-party system as voters fed up with austerity, unemployment and corruption scandals flocked to new parties, leaving a hung parliament divided among four main groupings, none of them with enough seats to govern alone.

The Socialists, who came second in the polls, formed a pact with centrist upstart Ciudadanos but they failed to secure enough support to form a government during two votes of confidence in parliament in March.

Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez has since then tried in vain to convince new far-left party Podemos to back a “government of change” that has the support of the Socialists, Podemos and Ciudadanos.

Talks between those three parties broke down last week, less than 24 hours before they began, due largely to the huge gulf between Ciudadanos and Podemos over economic policy and an independence referendum in the wealthy northeastern region of Catalonia.

Sánchez vowed on Tuesday to try “until the last minute, the last second” to reach an agreement.

“My hand remains extended. I will not give up,” he added.

The Socialists were tasked with forming a government after acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy – whose conservative Popular Party came first at the polls but lost its absolute majority in parliament – gave up attempts to do so due to lack of support from other groupings.

A new government must be in place by May 2nd, otherwise fresh  elections will be called for June 26th.

The king has so far held two unsuccessful rounds of talks since the December vote.

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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).