Spain PM vows to resolve judicial blockade amid unprecedented intervention

Madrid, Dec 20 (EFE).- Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez on Tuesday vowed to adopt the necessary measures to end a judicial deadlock after the powerful Constitutional Court blocked a Senate debate on legislation to alter how judges are appointed and abolish the crime of sedition.

The court’s decision Monday to halt the passage of legislation that had already been approved by Congress, the lower chamber of parliament, was an unprecedented intervention since the country’s return to democracy 44 years ago and sparked a frenetic political debate.

Sánchez, whose Socialist Party (PSOE) runs a minority coalition government with far-left junior partners Unidas Podemos, said that while the government respected the court’s authority it did not agree with the decision and would work within the law to approve the proposed changes.

“The government will adopt whatever measures are necessary to put an end to the unjustifiable deadlock of the judiciary and the Constitutional Court,” he added from the Moncloa Palace, his official residence, without further detail.

“In moments of uncertainty, calm and firmness are required,” he added.

The PM’s comments come amid a drawn out political tussle in Spain over the renewal of senior officials in the judiciary, most of whom are politically appointed.

This affects both the general council of the Spanish judiciary (CGPJ), which governs the highest judicial wrung in the country, the Supreme Court, and the Constitutional Court, which upholds Spain’s constitution.

The CGPJ has been frozen since 2018 when Spain entered into a period of political turmoil and repeat elections that culminated with Sánchez’s PSOE cobbling together a fragile minority coalition in 2019.

The CGPJ nominates two of the 12 magistrates at the Constitutional Court, meaning its stagnation has a domino effect, while four are nominated by Congress, four by the Senate and two by the government.

As things stand six of the 12 magistrates at the Constitutional Court are conservatives compared to five progressives. Four of the jurists were due to be replaced in June this year, two of whom were appointed by the CGPJ and two by the former conservative Popular Party government of Mariano Rajoy.

The court ruling to block the legislation on Monday came following a legal challenge lodged by the PP, now under the leadership of Alberto Feijóo, which argued it was upholding the constitution.

On Tuesday, Sánchez accused the PP of purposefully flouting its constitutional mandate in order to keep the political balance of Spain’s judiciary tipped in its favor.

Another element of the draft law that has ruffled conservative feathers in parliament relates to a proposed softening of the penal code that would abolish the offense of sedition and alter penalties for the misappropriation of public funds, two charges used to convict and jail Catalan separatists in the wake of an illegal, unilateral independence referendum in 2017.

Sánchez has tried to smooth over tensions in Catalonia and in 2021 pardoned nine Catalan political leaders and activists jailed for their involvement in the secession bid. EFE


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