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Spanish PM pushes for new laws after graft scandal

 Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Thursday pushed for the rapid adoption of new laws aimed at tightening political party accounting rules, after his health minister resigned in the latest in a string of corruption scandals.



Madrid: Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Thursday pushed for the rapid adoption of new laws aimed at tightening political party accounting rules, after his health minister resigned in the latest in a string of corruption scandals.

Ana Mato stepped down on Wednesday after being linked to an alleged kickback scheme at the heart of the prime minister`s conservative Popular Party.

Graft scandals involving politicians, businesses, football clubs and even the king`s sister have shaken Spain recently, turning many people away from the political establishment.

"Spanish people want a deal," Rajoy said to the lower house of Congress on Thursday, where he called for an agreement on draft anti-corruption bills and for stricter measures within it.

Mato has not been named as an official suspect in the bribery probe but the investigating judge said she had "benefited from" holidays, cash payments and other gifts when she was married to Jesus Sepulveda, a former Popular Party mayor of a Madrid suburb.

The bribes-for-contracts scheme, known as the "Gurtel" case, allegedly extended to six regional Popular Party governments and operated between 1999 and 2009, when the investigation began.

High Court judge Pablo Ruz said he had evidence to try 43 people for corruption.

"The atmosphere is sometimes becoming oppressive," Rajoy told Congress.

"People are offended by differences of opinion over this," he said, referring to the laws.

Rajoy, who took power at the end of 2011, did not set a date for the measures to be adopted.Socialist Party chief Pedros Sanchez told Rajoy: "You`re not in a position to deal with the renewal of democracy that Spain is calling for. 

"You haven`t the capacity nor the legitimacy to do it," added Sanchez, whose own party is also embroiled in corruption cases.

Rajoy also presented amendments to the 2013 draft laws, aiming to promote more transparency and control of party donations and of the salaries and expenses of civil servants.

Mato, who could be called to testify in the latest scandal, said Wednesday she was stepping down for the good of the government and the party.

Spanish media have reported that businessmen paid for designer goods, first communion celebrations and even clowns and confetti for children`s birthday parties for Mato and her daughter in exchange for kickbacks.

The 55-year-old was one of the least popular members of Rajoy`s government. 

She was harshly criticised for her handling of the case of a Spanish nurse who became infected with Ebola after caring for two elderly missionaries who died from the disease at a Madrid hospital.

With the country set to hold a general election in 2015, corruption is the biggest concern for Spaniards after unemployment, according to a recent poll by the Centre for Sociological Investigations.

In 2013, Rajoy resisted pressure to resign over allegations of undeclared payments to members of his party.

Anger over corruption, as well as frustrations after six years of economic turbulence, have shaken up the two-party system that has dominated since Spain emerged from dictatorship in the 1970s.

A fast-growing far-left party set up in January, Podemos, has become a major threat to the traditional parties.

As well as promising to tackle corruption, Podemos wants a 35-hour working week, public control over certain sectors of the economy and the lowering of the retirement age to 60.

A poll published on Monday gave Podemos 28.3 percent support, just ahead of the Popular Party with 26.3 percent and the Socialist Party on 20.1 percent.

From Zee News

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