A Debased Parliamentarism


Fernando González Urbaneja | What has been heard these days (and others) in Parliament (Congress and Senate) would make you cry, it goes beyond bad manners and rudeness; fortunately they have only been words, although degenerating could go further. It has already happened in other parliaments and it happened in ours a little less than a century ago. It is unimaginable today what he called the dialectic of the pistols, but manners and rhetoric inflame passions and misdirection.

The Budgets are debated, which theory says is the law par excellence of each ordinary session. But what drags that debate through to the vote is anything but a debate on accounts and economic and social policies. There are no speeches worth mentioning for their depth and good sense, for the relevance of the proposal and the explanations.

From the interventions of the minister in charge, almost always colourful and audacious and almost never well-founded, to the interventions of the opponents or partners, what can be heard there is far from exemplary or interesting. Propagandistic words and slogans are coined with no content beyond what they are trying to say, which is usually “how good we are and how bad the others are”.

The President of Congress (and the President of the Senate) and the respective bureaux responsible for the government (and decorum) of the chambers are limited to presiding and distributing the turns tied to the formalities of a set of rules that have long been in need of reform. But we are concerned about the respect and prestige of the institution. They lack authority, they are mere cogs in the executive’s (and the parties’) grip on parliamentarians. Party and party discipline rule, the rest is landscape.

Never has legislation been so bad as in the last two legislatures, a process of degradation that comes from the previous government. Many rules (170 says proudly the Minister of the Presidency) who slips every day into a “hooliganism” that fits badly with his person and character. Many hasty laws, with an urgency that goes against their effectiveness and permanence. In short, a debased, degraded parliamentarism that opens the door to a democracy of very low quality. Because they are not, they are not even educated.

About the Author

Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja
Over 30 years working in economic journalism. Fernando was founder and chief-editor at El País, general editor at the business daily Cinco Días, and now teaches at Universidad Carlos III. He's been president of the Madrid Press Association and the Spanish Federation of Press Associations. He's also member of the Spanish press complaints commission.