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Spain to publish names of politicians who refuse to declare their assets

The Spanish government will have to reveal the name of senior officials who don’t declare their assets properly or have refused to do so altogether, Spain’s high court has decided.

Spain to publish names of politicians who refuse to declare their assets
Around 100 senior officials in Spain refused to declare their assets between 2015 and 2018. In the photo, Spain's National Congress in Madrid. Photo: AFP

Spain’s Office of Conflicts of Interest (OCI) will have to disclose the names of senior officials who haven’t correctly presented their asset declarations for goods and payments which they are bound to declare by law, the country’s high court ruled on Monday.

The ruling is aimed at rooting out illicit practices amongst Spain’s political class, in particular when holding positions or reaching agreements with private companies while holding public office.

Up until now, OCI had kept the names of a dozen senior politicians who have cases opened against them secret, as well as a further 100 Spanish officials who refused to declare their assets between 2015 and 2018.

The state’s legal service told the court that “the publication of any alleged offender’s personal information in the press before a verdict was equivalent to any possible punishment or treating them as guilty before the sentence”.

But Spain’s high court ruled that disclosing the name of public officials under investigation was of greater importance than any data protection or privacy claim on their part.

The Spanish government has the right to appeal the decision in the supreme court.

“Given these senior officials’ responsibilities, there must be the maximum amount of transparency, legality and an absence of conflicts between their private interests and those inherent to their public functions,” Spain’s high court is quoted as saying in national daily El País.

OCI also has the legal right to prevent public officials from joining the private sector once they leave office, but in 98 percent of cases this practice is allowed.  

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HEALTH

Ideological battle over abortion as Spain vote looms

A controversial anti-abortion proposal by the far-right Vox party has sparked heated debate in a key election year for Spain, with its left-wing government raising the alarm about extremist agendas.

Ideological battle over abortion as Spain vote looms

Last week, a Vox official in the northern region of Castilla y León, which is co-run by the right and far right, said doctors would have to offer women seeking an abortion the option of hearing the heartbeat of the foetus.

The measure is similar to that adopted last year by the far-right government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, which requires pregnant women to listen to the foetus’ “vital functions’ before having an abortion.

The aim was “to promote childbirth and support families”, said the region’s deputy head Juan Garcia-Gallardo, a member of Vox which, like other parties of its ilk, has put a lot of focus on this ideologically charged issue.

READ ALSO: Spain’s Castilla y León to introduce measures to prevent abortions

Spain, a European leader when it comes to women’s rights, decriminalised abortion in 1985 and in 2010 it passed a law that allows women to opt freely for abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy in most cases.

A government bill which aims to guarantee access to the procedure at public hospitals is currently making its way through parliament.

‘Threat is very real’

Vox in 2022 entered a regional government for the first time since it was founded in 2013 when it became the junior partner in a coalition with the conservative Popular Party (PP) in Castilla y León.

The experiment in the region close to Madrid is being closely watched: polls suggest the PP would win a general election expected the end of the year but would need the support of Vox to govern.

Before that, Spain will vote in May in regional and local elections.

Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez used his address at the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday to warn of the threat posed by the far-right, in what was seen as a reference to Castilla y León.

“We have to prevent these political forces from reaching the institutions… because the threat is very real, especially in those countries where far-right forces have the support of mainstream conservative parties,” he said.

He accused Moscow of using far-right parties to sow division in Europe, adding: “We will fight them with the same determination and conviction that the Ukrainians are fighting Russian forces.”

Sánchez’s executive has sent two notices to the regional government of Castilla y León reminding it that it does not have the authority to alter the abortion law.

READ ALSO: What are Spain’s abortion laws for foreign residents and visitors?

‘Drive a wedge’

Meanwhile, the main opposition PP has tried to distance itself from the controversy. It said the measure, which was first put forward by Garcia-Gallardo, will never come into force.

During a TV interview on Tuesday, PP leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo said: “No woman who wants to voluntarily interrupt her pregnancy according to the law will be coerced anywhere where the PP governs.”

Feijóo, who has pushed the PP to the centre since becoming leader of the party in April, did not hide his discomfort with Vox, which he said was “clearly mistaken”.

He said the far-right party had sparked a controversy that “clearly” benefitted Sánchez’s government, which had “a lot of problems”.

The abortion row has overshadowed other disputes troubling the government. They include a row sparked by a flagship law against sexual violence that toughened penalties for rape but eased sentences for other sexual crimes. This has set some convicts free after their jail terms were reduced.

Antonio Barroso, of political consultancy Teneo, said Vox was “trying to drive a wedge within the PP by pushing for initiatives that pull the party away from the centre”.

Controversies over issues like abortion could help Sánchez “to mobilise the left-wing electorate by capitalising on their potential fears of a PP-Vox government”, he added in a research note.

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