Spain

   

Executive Accountability

#21
Key Findings
Despite some bright spots, Spain receives a middling overall score (rank 21) in the area of executive accountability. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Parliamentarians have limited resources, but oversight powers are generally adequate. The power of summoning ministers was frequently exercised in 2017. The audit office’s party-influenced appointments process hampers its independence, while the ombuds office was filled by only an acting officeholder during the review period, as parties could not agree on a consensus candidate.

Traditionally showing little interest in politics, Spanish citizens have paid more attention since the onset of crisis. The media has responded with improved policy coverage. Most citizens watch TV news, which is generally objective and balanced.

The party landscape has expanded dramatically, with parties pursuing varying internal-governance styles. Economic associations have become more sophisticated in recent years. Other civil-society organizations have less influence.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#16

To what extent are citizens informed of government policymaking?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of government policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual government policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of government policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of government policies.
Policy Knowledge
6
Although levels of interest in politics have traditionally been low in Spain as compared with other Western European countries, the crisis and the deep changes in the political landscape (with the emergence of Podemos and Ciudadanos) have somewhat changed Spaniards’ attitudes toward the policy process. The public now demands more information, and the motives behind and implications of government policy decisions are now better explained in the media than was the case in the old two-party system.
Research conducted by the official sociological institute CIS demonstrates that attentiveness to political information within Spain has improved. With regard to specific public services and policies, the empirical evidence also shows a recent increase in participation and thus knowledge. For example, a public opinion survey on fiscal policy published by the CIS in 2016 shows that 51.2% of respondents discuss public services often or very often (as compared to 44.2% in 2008).

Citations:
CIS Survey 3191 (Barometer) October 2017
http://www.cis.es/cis/export/sites /default/-Archivos/Marginales/3180_ 3199/3191/es3191mar.pdf

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#28

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
6
Every parliamentary group is assigned funds to hire personnel, with the size of budgets dependent on the party’s electoral results. Individual legislators lack even a single exclusive assistant, as the small number of staff members is shared across the parliamentary group (typically with an assistant for every two deputies or senators). Economic resources for the commission of policy research, whether performed internally or externally, are also very scarce. There are no real parliamentary research units. The emergence of Podemos and Ciudadanos has livened things up somewhat but not introduced real changes.

The scrutiny of European policymaking (an area that can be easily compared to other EU member states’ national parliaments) well illustrates the lack of resources: the Spanish Joint Committee of the Congress and the Senate for European Affairs has at its disposal only two legal clerks, a librarian and three administrative personnel. And despite growing demands for greater parliamentary involvement in EU affairs since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty (with the introduction of an “early warning system” to control the proportionality of new European legislation), budgetary restrictions have prevented any change with regard to human and financial resources. In short, Spanish deputies and senators can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities, but cannot effectively oversee all dimensions of public policy.

Citations:
Kölling, M. and I. Molina. 2015. “The Spanish National Parliament and the European Union: Slow Adaptation to New Responsibilities in Times of Crisis.” In The Palgrave Handbook of National Parliaments and the European Union, eds. C. Hefftler et al. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not ask for government documents.
Obtaining Documents
8
The information and documentation requested from the government must be made available within a period not exceeding 30 days and in the manner most suitable to the applicant. If this is not done, “the legally justified reasons preventing the supply of such information” must be provided. This legal margin allows the government to avoid delivering some important documents (e.g., on the grounds of secrecy), or enables it to deliver the documents incompletely or late. Furthermore, although every member of a committee is in principle entitled to request any information or document, they can only do it “with the prior knowledge of their respective parliamentary group.” Access to documents may also vary depending on the ministry. Documents generally arrive on time and in full, but obstacles are occasionally erected.

Citations:
November 2017, Europa Press: “La Audiencia Nacional rechaza enviar documentos a la comisión sobre financiación del PP”
http://www.europapress.es/naci onal/noticia-gurtel-audiencia-nacio nal-rechaza-enviar-documentos-comis ion-financiacion-pp-20171129140500. html

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
9
According to article 110 of the Spanish constitution, the committees of both the Congress of Deputies and the Senate “may summon members of the government” to ask them questions. At least 70 deputies or one-fifth of the members of a committee need to make the request. The request is subject to a vote in the Bureau of Congress and the Board of Spokesmen, and the party supporting the government, which is always disciplined and easily able to obtain a majority of votes, may reject some of the requirements made by the opposition. If the initiatives are approved, ministers are obliged to answer questions raised in these sessions. Ministers are regularly summoned by the committees overseeing their policy areas (see “Task Area Congruence”) and it is quite common for ministers themselves to request to be allowed to report on matters relating to their respective departments. In 2017, the mechanism of summoning ministers has been frequently exercised.

Citations:
March 2017, Comparecencia del Ministro en la Comisión Mixta Congreso Senado para la UE.
http://www.exteriores.gob.es/P ortal/es/SalaDePrensa/Comparecencia sParlamentarias/Documents/20170329_ COMPARECENCIA.pdf

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
8
The standing orders of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate state that parliamentary committees may request, through their respective speakers, “the attendance of persons competent in the subject-matter for the purposes of reporting to and advising the committee.” The rights of parliamentary committees to send invitations to independent experts are not limited by any legal constraint. Requests to summon experts have increased in number in recent years, particularly at the beginning of the legislative process or in specialized subcommittees, but this is still a rare practice. The limited nature of the Spanish parliament’s staffing and financial resources prevents systematic involvement in the lawmaking process by university scholars, think tank analysts and other experts. According to the Congress’ website, fewer than 100 experts were summoned during 2015 by the 28 standing committees and the several subcommittees. The parliamentary committee tasked with studying Spain’s current territorial model will organize numerous hearings with experts.

Citations:
November 2017, El País: “Solo Podemos niega en el Congreso la injerencia de Moscú en la crisis catalana”
https://politica.elpais. com/politica/2017/11/23/actualidad/ 1511464360_611345.html

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
7
There is considerable correspondence between the number and task areas of the 13 ministries and those of the Congress of Deputies’ 19 standing legislative committees. The exceptions are the international development, culture, equality, climate change and disability committees, which do not match up with any single ministry (development policy is developed by the Foreign Ministry, culture policy by the Education Ministry, climate policy by the Agriculture and Environment Ministry, and both equality and disability policies by the Health and Social Services Ministry). In addition, the Ministry of Finance has split its task areas into budget and finance and public service. For the rest, each parliamentary committee corresponds – even in name – to a single existing ministry. The constitutional committee, aside from the other functions its name denotes, monitors the activities of the Government Office (Ministerio de la Presidencia, GO).

Citations:
Índice de Comisiones en Funcionamiento, XII Legislatura
www.congreso.es/portal /page/portal/Congreso/Congreso/Orga nos/Comision

To what extent is the audit office accountable to the parliament?

10
 9

The audit office is accountable to the parliament exclusively.
 8
 7
 6


The audit office is accountable primarily to the parliament.
 5
 4
 3


The audit office is not accountable to the parliament, but has to report regularly to the parliament.
 2
 1

The audit office is governed by the executive.
Audit Office
6
The Audit Office (Tribunal de Cuentas) is accountable primarily to parliament, but is not an integral part of it. The Audit Office exercises the function of auditing the state’s accounts and the financial management of the entire public sector. However, even if this organ is envisaged by the constitution as a powerful one, parliament cannot fully rely on its auditing capacities. Public accounts are submitted annually to the Audit Office, which sends an annual statement of its auditing activities to the parliament, identifying where applicable any infringements that in its opinion may have been committed, or any liabilities that may have been incurred. Most state public-sector organizations deliver their accounts to the Audit Office for inspection, although many of them do so with delays. As a consequence, the annual audit statements are also published very late. The office’s members are appointed by a qualified majority agreement between the parties, and thus may not be sufficiently independent – particularly when auditing the political parties’ accounts. The Audit Office has in the past been slow to investigate the big financial scandals engulfing the Spanish political parties (see “Party Financing”), and has faced accusations not only of inefficiency but also of nepotism when hiring its own staff.

Citations:
Report Peer Review Tribunal de Cuentas of Spain
http://www.tcu.es/export/sit es/default/.content/pdf/transparenc ia/Report_PR_2015_06_23-fim-en.pdf

Does the parliament have an ombuds office?

10
 9

The parliament has an effective ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

The parliament does not have an ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
7
Article 54 of the Spanish constitution regulates the Office of the Ombudsperson (Defensor del Pueblo) as a high commissioner’s office whose holder is appointed by the legislature to respond to requests, and to protect and defend basic rights and public freedoms on behalf of all citizens. He or she is authorized to supervise the activities of the government and administration, expressly forbidding any arbitrariness. The ombudsperson is elected by both houses of parliament for a five-year period (thus avoiding coinciding with the legislative term of four years) by a qualified majority of three-fifths. The office is not subjected to any imperative mandate, does not receive instructions from any authority, and performs its functions autonomously. The officeholder is granted immunity and inviolability during his or her time in the post.

Almost 75% of the recommendations made by Spain’s Ombudsperson are accepted by the public administration. However, its advocacy role is slightly limited by two factors: 1) a lack of resources, and 2) inadequate departmental collaboration during the investigation stage or during implementation of the recommendations. Since 2017, there is only an acting Ombudsperson, since political parties could not agree on the person who should be in charge of the Ombuds office.

Citations:
Informe enero-junio 2016
https://www.defensordelpueblo.es/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Avan ce_informe_anual_enero_junio_2016.pdf

Media

#27

To what extent do media provide substantive in-depth information on decision-making by the government?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
7
The main print periodicals (El País, El Mundo, ABC, La Vanguardia) provide a fairly significant amount of in-depth analyses of the Spanish policy process and sophisticated op-ed analyses of government decisions, despite their partisan preferences. The print-media readership is declining, and the impact of these publications is thus limited, but a growing number of readers have begun following online newspapers (either electronic versions of the mainstream print publications or standalone online publications such as El Confidencial or eldiario.es) and politics-themed blogs (such as Agenda Pública).

TV it the most important source of political information for the average citizen, since almost 70% of Spaniards watch TV news every day. However, a large portion of the time devoted to political information is given over to news and talk shows. News programs, which are generally objective and balanced, are aired on a twice-daily basis (from 14:00 to 15:00 and from 20:30 to 21:30) on all major TV channels. In addition, several infotainment-style debate shows are aired during workday mornings and on some evenings (on weekends) but these are often superficial, focusing on polarized arguments with limited contextualized analysis.

A third of Spaniards also follow political news via radio stations, which devote many hours a week to political information. All main stations have early-morning and afternoon programs combining both background news and political debate, as well as a late-night news program. Privately owned radio stations are more ideologically biased than the major TV stations (with participants in the radio debates blatantly biased in favor of or against the government). There are also daily radio programs of reasonable quality focused on business, and therefore on economic policymaking.

Citations:
Noviembre 2017, Evolución de audiencia OJD de eldiario.es
https://www.ojdinteract iva.es/medios-digitales/eldiario-ev olucion-audiencia/totales/anual/389 6/trafico-global/

Parties and Interest Associations

#8

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Democracy
6
After the two general elections in a row held in 2015 and 2016, Spain’s political landscape (a predominantly two-party system from 1982 to 2014) had expanded to include four major parties with more than 10% of the popular vote at the national level: the mainstream center-right party Partido Popular (PP), the social-democratic Spanish Socialist Workers Party (Partido Socialista Obrero Español, PSOE), the new left-wing anti-establishment party Podemos (We Can) and the new center party Ciudadanos (Citizens).

The PP, in office since December 2011, is characterized by its opaque internal decision-making processes. It is a heavily centralized party, although some of its regional branches enjoy significant independence – at least regarding decisions on personnel. The PP seeks to speak with one voice (the voice of its president), a tendency illustrated through the nomination of Mariano Rajoy as the candidate for prime minister without any direct participation by party members and despite several polls showed that more than half of the PP’s voters preferred a different candidate. The decisions on how to fill the rest of the electoral lists and which position will be represented by the party in most issues are restricted to a small core leadership. Actually, despite the PP announced that its next party conference (to be held in 2017) would introduce primary elections for the selection of representative candidates, it withdrew this idea later. The PSOE, which is the major opposition party, is considerably more participatory than the PP. As a less president-driven organization, internal debate on electoral programs is common and even public, frequently involving some of the regional branches (especially the powerful Andalusian and Catalonian sections, the latter of which is formally an independent party). The manner in which the PSOE selects its leader and main candidates is also more open, with the participation of regional delegates or through the use of primary elections. Its leader Pedro Sánchez was endorsed as the party’s candidate for prime minister in late 2015 and mid-2016 with no rival contender, and thus no need to organize primaries. However, following its poor 2016 election results, the party was embroiled in internal battles to force his resignation as secretary-general. After interim leadership beginning in October 2016, Pedro Sánchez again became secretary-general in June 2017. Shortly after reassuming leadership he demanded an internal reform of the party, with the objective of including more participatory mechanisms for party members.

Finally, both Podemos and Ciudadanos present themselves as more internally democratic than the PP and the PSOE, insofar as they formally allow all party members and supporters to participate in personnel and program decisions. However, despite the rhetoric in these two new parties, closed party leaderships were able to fully control the most important decisions in 2016, including the appointment of their charismatic leaders (Pablo Iglesias and Albert Rivera, respectively) to serve as prime-ministerial candidates.

Citations:
Rodon T. and M.J. Hierro. 2016. “Podemos and Ciudadanos Shake up the Spanish Party System“, South European Society and Politics.

Noviembre 2016, La Razón: “El PP no aprobará «primarias» en su Congreso
http://www.larazon.es/esp ana/el-pp-no-aprobara-primarias-en- su-congreso-AJ13928967

To what extent are economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Business)
8
During the period under examination, the main trade unions in Spain (UGT and CCOO) have strongly supported the reversion of austerity measures and other adjustment reforms implemented by the Popular Party (Partido Popular, PP) government during the worst years of the crisis. However, this does not mean that Spanish trade unions are radicalized or incapable of formulating viable polices within the euro zone context. UGT is associated with the Fundación Francisco Largo Caballero, and CCOO with Fundación 1 de Mayo. The largest business association (CEOE) has the Círculo de Empresarios think tank, as well as the training centers linked to the CEOE and the Chambers of Commerce. Other private economic groups include the Círculo de Economía, farmer’s associations (such as COAG and ASAJA), the National Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, some consumer associations (CEACCU and UCE), the Spanish Confederation of Cooperative Business, and diverse sectoral-lobbying actors (e.g., Foro Nuclear on the issue of nuclear energy). Big Spanish companies also fund liberal economic-policy think tanks (e.g., Fedea) that are autonomous but produce “business friendly” policy proposals. Other organizations such as CEPES, which addresses the social economy, are also very influential. Finally, AFI and FUNCAS are relevant economic think tanks.

Citations:
October 2017, Círculo de Empresarios: “Informe CCAA”
https://circulodeempresarios. org/app/uploads/2017/10/Informe-CCA A-octubre-2017-Circulo-de-Empresari os.pdf
September 2017, Florentino Felgueroso (Fedea) et al: “Recent trends in the use of temporary contracts in Spain”
http://documentos.fedea.ne t/pubs/eee/eee2017-25.pdf

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
8
Non-economic interest associations have always been relatively weak in Spain, and it has been difficult for them to influence political decision-making with relevant policy proposals. Furthermore, the lack of a strong, organized civil society is a disincentive for the government to take these associations’ views into account during policy formulation (since the process would become much more complex, without necessarily adding social legitimacy as a compensation). Thus, there is no virtuous circle encouraging social, environmental and religious groups to improve their policy competence.
Even the strong Catholic Church lacks a research unit capable of formulating policies, although it remains influential on education and moral issues. Leading environmental groups (e.g., Ecologistas en Acción or Greenpeace España) and some NGOs devoted to human rights (such as Amnesty International) or development aid (Intermón Oxfam and other Spanish groups that benefited from the larger budgets in this area in the late 2000s) have gained technical competence, and increasingly rely on academic expertise and specialized publications to influence public opinion and policymakers within their areas of interest. Women’s associations are weak as autonomous organizations, but influential within the political parties (especially in the PSOE). The LGBT movement has successfully defended homosexuals’ rights.

Finally, social protests triggered by the crisis have made a mark in recent years, though this is increasingly less the case as the crisis wanes. Platforms and networks have been able to gain media attention and even shape public policy by demanding more transparency, better regulation of mortgages, and changes in areas such as health and education. Social movements promoting (or in some cases opposing) Catalonia’s right to become an independent state also have experts that conduct research on issues related to independence.

Citations:
November 2017, Ecologistas en Acción: “Caminar sobre el abismo de los límites”
https://docs.google.com/v iewerng/viewer?url=https://www.ecol ogistasenaccion.org/IMG/pdf/informe -abismo-limites.pdf

September 2015, Societat Civil Catalana: “Dèficits de qualitat democràtica a Catalunya”
http://www.societatcivi lcatalana.cat/sites/default/files/d ocs/Deficits-qualitat-democratica-C atalunya%20.pdf
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