Not without prior consensus
The regional electoral reforms reflect political opportunism rather than savings
The regional premier of Galicia, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, has announced an electoral reform to reduce the regional parliament by 14 seats, from the current 75 to 61. The Galician Popular Party (PP) defends this proposal with arguments such as spending the money thus saved (1.3 million euros per year) on kindergartens while reducing the number of politicians, whose stock with the general public is now rather low. The same party that speaks of austerity refuses to reduce the salaries of regional deputies, and accordingly proposes to achieve the desired saving by reducing the number of seats, while many of the party’s mayors in the region have raised their own remuneration.
Feijóo is attempting to turn his proposal into a national issue for the entire PP, and, since the last meeting of regional leaders with Rajoy, there has been a spate of suggestions to lop seats off the regional chambers. Yet the matter is confused because Castilla-La Mancha, the region presided by María Dolores de Cospedal, secretary general of the party, has just done the contrary, increasing the number of regional deputies from 49 to 53.
What Feijóo’s maneuver really aims to do is to assure a new majority for his party, by a gerrymandering of the constituencies. The intended reform will give another seat or two to the PP, supposing that in the next election the voting pattern is similar to that of last time. The technical procedure to achieve this is simple: a rather high number of seats are assigned to each province, no fewer than 10, irrespective of the province’s population, the remaining seats being distributed proportionally to population. The result is to increase the parliamentary weight of the provinces that are less populated but traditionally more conservative, which are Lugo and Ourense (the latter being notorious for the corrupt practices of PP baron José Manuel Baltar), and to diminish the weight of the more populous A Coruña and Pontevedra, where the Socialists and the regional leftist BNG have their main reservoirs of votes. All this a few months from the Galician elections, planned for next March, if early elections are not called.
Feijóo’s intentions bring to mind those that the PP’s national leadership proposed for the national Congress before the last general elections. Some PP leaders then spoke of a reduction in the number of deputies to 300 from the present 350, an idea which has not reappeared in recent months, though the reasoning is the same as that now being employed by the Galician PP.
A priori we should not rule out discussion on the size and cost of representative institutions, but in Spain the system of representation is proportional, and the rules of the game must not be altered to hurt the opposition and benefit those who hold power.
Everything can be reformed, including electoral laws, provided there exists a broad social and political consensus. When reforms are imposed unilaterally, this breeds suspicions of opportunistic maneuvers to prefabricate a majority.