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Amidst General Distrust of Politics, the Socialist Party of Catalonia Takes Babysteps Towards Transparency

BY Antonella Napolitano | Wednesday, January 15 2014

A screenshot of the homepage of the website Espai Obert ("Open Space" in Catalan language)

The Socialist Party of Catalonia (PSC) has launched a transparency portal, dubbing itself “the first open party of Barcelona.”

The website, named Espai Obert ("Open Space" in Catalan language), provides data on the party’s budget as well as on remunerations received by elected officials. Officials’ contributions to the party are also detailed.

Another page of the site shows data on party members by age and gender.

This is part of an effort to renew the organization's image and public perception of the party at a time of profound distrust toward politics in the whole country due to several big corruption scandals that involved the Prime Minister and, lately, the Spanish Royal Family.

Lourdes Muñoz Santamaria, the organizing secretary of the Socialist Party in Barcelona, declared to the Barcelona daily El Periodico, "Democracy requires full citizenship. In order to form part of a responsible citizenship, you need to have access to this information. Access to information is a key element to build a full and healthy democracy."

Data on party members on Espai Obert.

There is room to improve on quantity and quality, however: there is only a limited amount of data on the website, and only part of that is downloadable and it is in PDF format, which makes it difficult to utilize the data. The download button is not very visible either.

At the moment, though, PSC's efforts seem more advanced than those of other parties. The PSOE, the Spanish Socialist Party (and sister party to the PSC), for example, have a less detailed budget document buried in a subpage of their website and in PDF format as well.

In her interview with El Periodico, Muñoz seems to be confident that it is the start of a process of transparency, saying that the websites represent "a decisive step towards the socialist political regeneration from politics itself."

The launch of the PSC transparency website comes right before the party's open primaries, which will select a socialist candidate for mayor of Barcelona, the capital of the region of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain.

The PSC primaries will be held on March 29th, after a six week participatory process for selecting the candidate. As Muñoz explains, the candidates must get a minimum of 1000 "avales de ciudadanía" (a sort of "citizens endorsement") from people who enroll in the primary register. If in the first ballot a candidate obtains 40 percent of the vote and is more than 10 points ahead of the candidate with the second largest percentage of votes, he or she is proclaimed the winner; otherwise, the two candidates with the most "avales" pass to the second round, and a second vote decides the winner. The general election will take place in 2015.

A political regeneration, as the PSC calls it, is much yearned for by the citizens of Spain but, apparently, politics has not fulfilled their wishes yet.

The Parliament approved a transparency and access to information law only last November, after more than a year of discussions both in the Parliament and in the public space. Before that, Spain was the only European Union country without an access to information law.

The law, though, has been strongly criticized by transparency organizations that deemed it not fulfilling international standards. Helen Darbishire, executive director of Madrid-based NGO Access Info Europe, declared that the “law that will have minimal positive impact on open government and do little to change a bureaucratic culture of secrecy.”

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