Chapter 18: Party funding in Spain
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The Spanish case is interesting for two reasons. First, the restoration of democracy in Spain took place at a time (1970s) when the emergence of mass parties was very unlikely. Spain is ahead of the rest of Europe in terms of the growing trend of citizens to distance themselves from political parties. Spanish party organizations have had the lowest membership levels in all of Western Europe. This made the problem of financing the parties more than evident from the outset in Spain. Second, the financing system chosen in Spain, a mixed system of public and private financing, is the most common amongst European countries, although it is true that the weight of public funding is higher in Spain than in most of her neighbours. The chapter describes the Spanish party funding system and analyses its main weaknesses. Corruption scandals linked to the illegal funding of parties in Spain have happened frequently even though there have been four major reforms in its legal framework (1987, 2007, 2012 and 2015). Despite the clear improvements brought about by the reform of 2015, there are still serious flaws in the regulation. It is still clear that parties have decided not to restrain themselves enough so as to avoid the temptation of obtaining funds in a questionable or outright illegal manner. The challenge lies in how to implement an effective reform when regulation depends on those that are regulated, and the latter have few incentives to implement such a reform. Pressure from international entities like GRECO, the emergence of new political formations that are aware of the need to self-limit and enhance funding transparency and, above all, pressure from citizens, associations and the media are all key factors for doing away with the current abuses and, as a result, reducing the risks of corruption in political funding.

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