Eduardo Fernández Luiña is a political analyst at the FAES Foundation
This year marks the fortieth anniversary of our Constitution. The Magna Carta that the Spanish people ratified on December 6,1978 served as the legal and institutional pillar for one of the most successful political systems in transition to democracy on the planet. In essence, our Constitution has been an effective product that has served as a model for many in other national realities and has contributed to building one of the best periods in Spain's history.
The levels of income and quality of life currently enjoyed by Spanish people can hardly be explained without taking into account the quality of the institutions that regulate their lives on a daily basis. The Constitution is by definition the institution of institutions, and therefore it seems correct to affirm that the central document of the legal and political architecture of our country had, has and will have much to do with the development and evolution of our political system and our society. In a comparative perspective, Spain enjoys a high standard of living. This is in spite of the fact that many people insist on affirming the opposite every day. Spaniards are among the richest 20% of the citizens who inhabit this planet. And without a doubt, this has been achieved thanks to the Constitution and not in spite of it (Nieves, 2016).
What Spain has achieved over the last forty years is not easy. Not many countries have undergone such a radical change in their social, cultural-formative and economic structure. Not many nations have achieved a peaceful society (in comparative terms, Spain is one of the safest countries in the world), healthy (with the highest quality of life and life expectancy) and with good future prospects if the right political decisions are taken (Spain's economic potential is evident).
Everything related to the quality of our political system has been subscribed to by countless national and international institutions. For example, the Democracy Index produced by the famous British weekly The Economist has ratios between 0 (the worst of the scores) and 10 (the best of the scores). In the 2017 report, Spain obtained an overall score of 8.08 out of 10. This is a very good score that indicates that our country is among the 'full' democracies on the planet. The data is not trivial, especially in these moments in which our liberal democratic system is threatened by a secessionist tension that constantly tries to discredit (inside and outside) the level and quality of our democracy.
The index has numerous variables to perform the analysis. The areas it examines are: 'Pluralism and electoral processes'; 'Functioning of the Government'; 'Political Participation', 'Political Culture', and 'Civil Liberties'. Bearing this in mind, we can affirm that Spain obtains the best result in the first of the sections, that dedicated to political pluralism and electoral processes (a matter of procedure). In this category, Spain's score exceeds nine points, obtaining 9.17 points. Another relevant position is reached when we analyze the situation of civil liberties. As we can see, Spain scored 8.82 points, making it a nation with a high commitment to protecting civil liberties.
On the contrary, the worst score can be seen in the section on the functioning of the government. In this category, Spain reaches 7.14 points, well below the great democracies existing in the global sphere (New Zealand or Denmark get 10 points in this thematic block).
In addition, if we continue with our analysis and review of indexes produced by international organizations, we will observe that our country obtains good scores in areas where many citizens suppose the existence of serious problems. One of them, terribly relevant for the functioning of the system, is that of Justice.
Since the Catalan independence threat began, there have been countless criticisms over the functioning and composition of the judiciary. Obviously, nobody denies that the Justice System as a whole has challenges and needs improvements (for example, budgetary). But once again the quality of our judicial body is beyond any doubt if we apply comparative optics.
Information on the situation of the rule of law in Spain is positive and is clearly set out in the Rule of Law Index. This globally prestigious index ranks Spain among the top twenty-five countries in the world. Spain ranks twenty-third, among the countries with the greatest respect for the rule of law. In any case, and as we have previously suggested, it would not be bad to improve this indicator, since our country could without any kind of doubt position itself in future years among the twenty best Rules of Law present in the global scenario.
In conclusion, the Spanish political system has consolidated itself as one of the best democracies on the planet. For all the above reasons, it seems common sense to recognize the role that the Constitution has played during all these years. The Spanish Magna Carta has more than fulfilled its function, being a central pillar - of an institutional nature - when it comes to explaining the prosperity that our country has experienced in the last four decades. Despite the economic crisis, which is very severe for a large number of Spanish people, the situation in general terms continues to be good in perspective compared to the rest of the world. And, once again, the quality of our institutions has had - and has - a lot to do with it.
This does not mean that we are exempt from problems, threats and challenges. Our political system must be aware of the threats that exist both to our way of life and to the situation of prosperity and well-being that characterizes the day-to-day life of the vast majority of Spanish people. And it seems that the pending issues of our system have to do with a better protection of economic freedoms and with the promotion of decisive actions in the fight against corruption.
But contrary to what many claim, the Constitution is not part of the problem, but the essence of the solution. Political culture polls do not show a critique of the cornerstone of our institutions, but of the actors who manage the political process on a daily basis. Citizens are not in favour of amending the Constitution. We find no empirical evidence pointing to the existence of large percentages of the population wishing to modify our Magna Carta.
Spain has everything to be a great nation. Today, our potential is recognized by many outside and within our borders. Let us take advantage of the coming years to clean up the system and maintain the quality that has defined our constitutional political system since 1978. Spain and the Spanish people deserve it.