AFP.com/ Spanish parliament passes party corruption bill

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SHAFAQNA – Spain’s lower house of parliament on Wednesday approved a bill aimed at tightening political party accounting rules as part of measures to fight corruption, seen as a key concern among voters.

The bill, which must still be approved by the Senate, adds the crime of illegal financing of political parties to the penal code.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party has a majority in the Senate and the bill is virtually assured to pass.

Under the bill anonymous donations to political parties above 50,000 euros ($58,000) are banned.

The law also calls for fines equivalent to three to four times the amount of money that was illegally donated.

If the donations surpass 500,000 euros — or just 100,000 euros if the money came from a foreign body — jail terms ranging from six months to four years could apply.

The bill also stiffens penalties for public workers found guilty of fraud or influence peddling.

The main opposition Socialist Party said the reform was “completely insufficient” since those who donate less than 500,000 euros will not go to jail.

It points out that in the so-called “Gurtel” case, a massive bribes-for-contracts scheme that allegedly existed at the heart of the Popular Party, none of the accused donated more than 500,000 euros.

High Court judge Pablo Ruz said in November that he had completed the “backbone” of his probe into the affair and had evidence to try 43 people for corruption.

The case is one of a series of high-profile corruption scandals involving politicians of all political stripes, businesses, football clubs and even the king’s sister. Hundreds of people have been charged and are awaiting trial.

With the country set to hold a general election at the end of the year, polls show corruption and unemployment top Spaniards’ list of concerns.

Anger over graft, as well as frustrations over a jobless rate of 24 percent, have shaken up the two-party system that has dominated since Spain emerged from dictatorship in the 1970s.

Podemos, a fast-growing far-left party set up last year, has made the fight against corruption a priority and tops polls of voting intentions.

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