MANIFESTO FOR A NEW ELECTORAL LAW IN SPAIN
28th May 2013
The Spanish society is concerned and shocked when it sees the deterioration of politics in this country. After 35 years of democracy, political parties are not working. According to every survey, citizens feel that politicians’ skills are below the difficulties that the country is facing.
Corruption has become a disease that affects (either in a big scale or in a smaller one) the main parties. There is a crisis of confidence in politics. Things cannot go on like this.
There have been laws and agreements to rein back corruption. But they have failed. There are many laws that punish corruption, but there are no rules that create a form of counterweight, that give more competences to politicians of a same party and that limit the power of the main leaders of these political organizations. Those are rules to prevent corruption from growing without any control.
Political parties have a unique role to play in any democratic system. Unlike other advanced democracies, the current Spanish legal framework does not allow the purifying of parties when necessary. Spanish political parties regulate themselves: congress and management meetings are organized whenever they serve best their leaders; the normal method to select candidates for some posts within the party and for representative posts is co-option (a method in which an association elects internally its own members); the auditing of accounts is done by a court of auditors (Tribunal de Cuentas in Spanish), a highly politicized body whose members can only access to the office with a political quota. The last year that has been audited by this body is 2007.
In more advanced constitutional democracies, political parties are highly regulated by law or, in the British case, by custom. This is not done on a whim. Political parties are not private entities such as a football club or an agricultural company, which can organize as they see fit. They are special entities that are given the monopoly of political representation and that are publicly financed. Its way of functioning is more transcendent than any other company or society. That is the reason why meeting periodicity is regulated by law, along with the methods to select members and the auditing of accounts through independent audits.
None of those regulations are applied in Spain, and this anomaly is one of the main causes of the current situation. Corrupt politicians can be found in every country, but internal democracy, sharing of competences among leaders and those who want to become leaders, and transparency obligations imposed by law allow the quick expulsion of these corrupt politicians. This is not the case in Spain. Corruption is growing; it weakens government action in a critical juncture, provokes disaffection among citizens and ends up causing a serious political and institutional crisis. But there is more. The co-option method, which is used over and over again, is an unfavorable way of selecting people that, eventually, gives power and responsibility to those who are less critical and capable. This must change immediately.
Among the many modifications that we must do in our political system, we believe that the most urgent one is that of a new electoral law (Ley de Partidos Políticos), that will regulate the activity of political parties, and will ensure their internal democracy, transparency and the control of their accounts, thus getting politics closer to the people. This is a necessary condition if we are to undertake successfully a much broader institutional reform process that will include, among others, a Justice reform, lobby regulation, and a strict separation of political and administrative posts to guarantee the independence and professionalism of the public service.
The basic points that this new law should include can be found in many European democracies. It should require specifically:
- The organization of meetings at least every two years and always at a fixed date.
- Meetings of administration control bodies and internal congresses at a fixed date. The agenda should include a vote on the management of the administrators (by secret voting). Limiting the number of members, not including those who are part of the administration.
- Composition of the congress and control bodies in proportion to the number of affiliates or the votes of the party in each province or district. Limiting the term of office at least in control bodies.
- Election of executive bodies, delegates in congress and members of the control bodies by secret ballot of affiliates and delegates in congress.
- Election of candidates for representative posts by primary elections.
- Limited terms for treasurers and members in charge of accounts. Election of auditors in the different levels of the party. Annual audits carried out by independent companies before the presentation of the accounts that will be approved by the main governing bodies of the party.
- Creation of independent commissions to verify costs of campaigns, and inspections to verify that electoral cost limits are being respected.
This electoral law is an organic law that cannot be subject to a popular legislative initiative. Nevertheless, the Spanish Constitution grants, in article 29, the right to petition, which we (the undersigned) appeal to in order to demand the Courts to create a new electoral law with the above mentioned characteristics.
We ask you to join us in this petition (Link):