Are we immune to political corruption?

Josephine Serrallach

Josephine Serrallach TINZ Director

by Josephine Serrallach

TINZ Director

Sometimes seeing events unfold on the other side of the world can bring clarity and objectivity to our own view of the basics of New Zealand democracy. We can look at our own landscape through a clear lens and recognise the need to be vigilant against a tsunami of worldwide corruption and feel the urgency to protect a culture based on integrity.

In Spain, General Elections were held on the 26th of June. The majority of votes were won by the political party suffering major corruption scandals. In spite of continuous uncovering of corruption within this party, Spanish citizens voted in favour of more of the same - in favour of even more corruption.

Four days before the election, the Spanish Minister of the Interior, Jorge Fernandez Diaz, faced calls to resign over a leaked recording of his conversation with the Head of the Anti-Fraud Office of Catalonia. During the meeting they had discussed ways to incriminate leaders of pro-independence politicians in the region of Catalonia.

In spite of the resulting strong calls from the public for the resignation of both the Minister and the Head of the Anti-Fraud Office, neither resigned. Instead they publicly condemned the leak.

Spanish Minister for Home Affairs, Jorge Fernández Díaz

Spanish Minister of the Interior, Jorge Fernández Díaz

Defiant Daniel de Alfonso Head of the Anti Fraud Office in Catalonia

Defiant Daniel de Alfonso Head of the Anti Fraud Office in Catalonia

The Head of the Anti-Fraud Office was dismissed a few days later by the Catalan Parliament on the basis that the Anti-Fraud Office should be a model of integrity, politically independent and non-partisan. But at the same time the acting Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, defended the actions of his Minister. In this way he actually condoned the use of the state apparatus to fight against political rivals.

In many other democratic countries, this scandal would have ended with the resignation of the Minister concerned and of the Prime Minister for supporting such clear political corruption.

New Zealand citizens rely on the integrity of its institutions in the public sector, and on the integrity of its officials. It would be inconceivable that the head of the Serious Fraud Office could be involved in such political corruption to benefit the party in power.

Yet, we are not immune. Prior to the last New Zealand election the inappropriate collaboration between Ministers and bloggers was uncovered, but did not affect the outcome of the election. Do the citizens of our country accept this type of action as a normal political practice?

The example described in Spain is only one of many such lapses in political integrity around the world. Recognising this as political corruption serves to emphasise the need to protect our precious culture of integrity in our own public institutions, private organisations and all of New Zealand society.

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