Spain becomes a "flawed" democracy, according to 'The Economist'

Degradation is explained by lack of judicial independence

2 min
Marchena greeting the current president of the CGPJ, Carlos Lesmes.

BarcelonaSpain is no longer a full democracy At least not according to one of the most prestigious international indexes: The Economist has downgraded the quality of Spanish democracy to place it among the countries it considers "flawed democracies". In its 2021 assessment, it loses 0.18 points compared to the previous year, enough to fall to 24th in the world and no longer occupy the place of privilege the same index had already questioned in 2017 as a result of the suspension of self-government in Catalonia and the repression that was launched against pro-independence leaders. Now it is the lack of judicial independence that sets back Spanish democracy. "The judicial independence score has been downgraded as a result of political divisions to elect the new members of the General Council of the Judiciary, the body that administers the judicial system and has the mission to guarantee its independence," the conclusions point out. It has been more than a thousand days since the 21 representatives of the CGPJ's mandate expired and, despite the controversy generated by this situation, the PP and the PSOE continue without agreeing on its renewal.

"In formal matters of democracy, Spain scores very high. For example, in the chapter on elections, which are impeccably fast, effective and competitive. The but is institutional quality, which is a structural problem of Spanish institutions," says Víctor Lapuente, professor of political science at the University of Gothenburg. "This stems from institutions that are strongly politicised and dominated by the parties in power at any given moment, from local councils to regional and central governments," he stresses. In the case of the judiciary, the support of three-fifths of the the Spanish Parliament and three-fifths of the Senate are needed to renew the members. This situation is impossible to unblock unless it is with the help of the two main state parties. And this is where the PP has little incentive to move: the current distribution benefits it compared to the situation it would have if it were renewed.

Lapuente admits that indexes such as The Economist's or the one carried out by the University of Gothenburg are not perfect barometres of democracy, but they do detect quantitative or qualitative patterns and tend to coincide when it comes to classifying states. He is directly responsible for the European Quality of Government Index (EQI)based on interviews with citizens in different European countries. The latest edition was published last year and the Spanish state does not fare well either, especially Catalonia, which is at the bottom in terms of citizen perception in different areas: corruption in the public sector, impartiality of the police and education, among others.

Map of the results of the European Quality of Government Index (EQI) 2021.