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Who cares about corruption anyway?

The Spanish electoral lists are contaminated with candidates who are under investigation, meaning next month’s vote offers not just a reflection of how people feel about their leaders, but also how they feel about corruption.


Francisco Camps will be running in Valencia's elections despite his alleged involvement in the Gürtel scandal. Photo: gvaFranciscoCamps.

With the May 22 local elections looming, we now know the content of political parties’ electoral lists. El País’ assertion that over 100 of the candidates on those lists are under investigation for alleged corruption may be shocking, but it’s hardly surprising.

There a several main reasons for the enormous wave of political corruption in Spain in recent years, which I explored in an article last year: the mad money generated by the real estate bubble; the country’s system of autonomous regions, where local politicians can hoard power; a laissez-faire attitude on the part of many voters, who refuse to punish their corrupt representatives; and a media that rarely indulges in profound investigative journalism.

But beyond the cocktail of motives for this stain on Spanish democracy, it is equally fascinating to look at how ordinary voters respond to the phenomenon. The third reason listed above touches on this: many people simply tolerate – or ignore – their leaders’ sins, as was shown every time crowds gathered to shout encouragement as well as abuse at the Popular Party officials arriving at court during the Gürtel kickbacks investigation.

Opinion polls over the last couple of years seem to support this view. The PP has been bogged down by a catalogue of graft scandals during that time, with dozens of its local politicians facing investigation. And yet, its lead over the governing Socialists has grown and grown.

There are mitigating circumstances, most obviously the government’s handling of the economy, which has sent traditional Socialist support running for the hills. And it is this lack of support from the Socialist Party’s own voters, rather than a spike in support for the PP, upon which the poll gap has been built. Also, the Socialists have their own corruption cases to grapple with, most notably in Andalusia.

The Socialists look set to be punished heavily in the municipal elections in that region. But in Valencia, where the Gürtel affair has hounded the PP and where the region’s premier, Francisco Camps, faces accusations of taking bribes in the form of suits, the conservatives could fare very well.

The May vote will inevitably be a crucial electoral barometer ahead of next year’s general election. But it could also turn out to be an historic case-study in the degree to which electorates punish, or refuse to punish, corruption.

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Published: Apr 26 2011
Category: Iberoblog
Republication: Creative Commons, non-commercial
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4 Comments for “Who cares about corruption anyway?”

  1. Christopher Gamble

    In our little Andalucian town 19,000 pop we have a Mayor who is banned from politics for corruption, a rep’hglacement who packed up and left town after petrol bombings and life threat’hgs a previous disgraced mayer trying to leverage the current corruption to ‘hgghert’hg himself back in power even though he was thrown out (for corruption). We have a bull ring with an automatic sliding roof but no new school. We have e a huge contsruction firm that has profiteered from council projects including landscpaping a huge greenfield site in the National Park for a corrupt new factory scam. We have public workers and police officers unpaid while a loca ‘advisor’ to the mayor was on 106k euro salary plus a job for his wife and son; we have a multitude of highly visible whorehouses appearing in residential areas, drug smuggling and tabacco running across the Straits of Gibraltar and overpriced business rentals, homes and cars………….meanwhile people are planning to vote for the same old candidates with the same old policies and the same old intentions to lie to them and literally steal their money! nIf it wasn’t true you’d have to invent it. Eurpol would have a years work in this little sleepy town alone! So are people complacent becuase they are AFRAID or is it becuase they see this as a normal way of live and they all get a piece of the action in any case? Certainly its best left unsaid in the bars around here as is the sudden appearance of ultra spec luxery cars for low key town hall office employeees and their cronies. May this is such a huge indemic issue that only a complete economic meltdown and a strarvation of funding from EU would even have any impact. Its not as if the latest news about corruption has raised even an eyebrow! Sad as it may seem corruption could be cultural in Andalucia and maybe the rest of Spain too otherwise there would be riotsd on the streets protesting. .

  2. Micahel Clarke

    One man’s “corruption” is another man’s commission. We Anglo-saxons are just as corrupt as the Spaniards. We are merely better at it. Speaking-fees, consultancy-fees, old-boys networks, etc. The previous observations on an Andalucian town might apply to more than one London suburbs.

  3. “The May vote will inevitably be a crucial electoral barometer” this could only be true if Spain had an efficient electoral law that would not clearly benefit the 2 main parties. This is not the case hence these days’ demonstrations

  4. Micahel Clarke

    In fact Lorraine, Spain has one of the most proportional systems there are. Thus, small regional separtist parties always manage to get seats in the Cortes. If I’m not mistaken, a few thousand scruffy students in Sol DO in fact have an alternative, its called the I.U. (United Left) and they always manage to get council seats. The majority of those s”tudents” should get their act together and go to Germany or the UK for a couple of years and learn a wonderthing called a WORK ETHIC.

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