Spanish Constitutional Crisis Ends with Whimper
Conservatives accept more progressive judges in order to avoid changing the nominating rules.
The constitutional crisis triggered by Spain’s highest court a week before New Year’s has ended with a whimper.
The Constitutional Court suspended a debate in parliament for the first time since the end of the dictatorship. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez spoke of “an unprecedented situation in our democracy.”
At stake were reforms of the Constitutional Court itself. Sánchez’ left-wing coalition had proposed to lower the threshold needed to appoint justices from three-fifths to a simple majority in order to override a veto by the conservative People’s Party.
A majority in Congress, the Spanish lower house, approved the reforms. The People’s Party then asked the court to stop a debate in the Senate, arguing the changes were improperly introduced: as an amendment to penal reforms rather than a separate law. The six justices appointed by the People’s Party, including two whose terms had expired and who refused to recuse themselves, agreed this technicality warranted an historic breach of the separation of powers. The five appointed by Sánchez’ Socialist Workers’ Party sided with the government.
It was a new low in the politicization of the Spanish judiciary. After Sánchez became prime minister in 2018, a minority of conservative lawmakers blocked every judicial appointment they could. Their hope was to overturn the social democrat’s liberalizations, including the legalization of euthanasia and recognition of transgenders, and prevent the Constitutional Court from changing hands before the election in December.
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