Acte al congrés
Misc 06/12/2020

Spanish right and left wings fight for the patrimonialization of the Constitution

President of Parliament Meritxell Batet urges politicians to make an "inclusive" reading of the text

Mariona Ferrer I Fornells
4 min
Acte de commemoració del 42è aniversari de la Constitució a les portes del Congrés.

MadridParliament held an unusual commemoration of the Spanish Constitution on Sunday. Firstly, because of the pandemic, which forced the event to be held in the street. And secondly, because more and more representatives are absent from the event. It is no longer just the Catalan and Basque independence and nationalist politicians who do not appear, but also the leader of extreme right-wing party Vox, Santiago Abascal, and the leader of Ciudadanos, Inés Arrimadas, who have both commemorated the Constitution in their respective events in Barcelona. The president of the ultra-nationalist party's event, which was held in Sant Jaume square, has tanked.

In addition, it is the first time that there is a fully Republican party in the Moncloa that is committed to reforming the Constitution in a plurinational sense. But this is no longer debated, since the party that forms the Government - the PSOE - refuses to change the Constitution, however, the patrimonialization of the interpretation of the Constitution is indeed debated. During the only speech that was given at the event, the President of Parliament, Meritxell Batet, urged politicians to make an "inclusive" reading of the text and not to treat each other "as enemies", turning the text into a "party flag". "We have long known of the dire consequences of considering the political adversary as an enemy, of denying them legitimacy, of assuming a constant and unconditional confrontation. The aim of democratic political debate is not to eliminate the opposite, but to integrate them and transform its attitudes", she said.

However, Batet's appeal has served little purpose. The leader of one of the parties in the opposition -the PP -, Pablo Casado, has pointed out that this is a "special year", in a "negative" sense because for "the first time those who declare themselves enemies of the Constitution are leading the State". Vox spokesman Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros has also said that the Constitution "is in danger" because "today the enemies of the Constitution are in government and directing the State" - a speech in line with that made by Abascal in Barcelona. On the other side of the coin, the spokesman for Unidas Podemos - who is in the government together with the PSOE -, Pablo Echenique, has pointed out that the Spanish Constitution "is being besieged by two fifths of Congress", in reference to Vox, as well as the PP, for refusing to unblock the reform of the leadership of the Judciary General Council.

El president del govern espanyol, Pedro Sánchez, amb la presidenta del Congrés, Meritxell Batet, durant l'acte de commemoració del 42è aniversari de la Constitució a la cambra baixa.

Sanchez: a Constitution that "saves lives"

But if there is one thing Batet's speech has made clear is the call to comply with the Constitution from top to bottom, a message in line with the president of the Spanish government. "While the PSOE is at the helm of the government, the Constitution will govern from east to west", Spanish President Pedro Sanchez said on Sunday in an interview with El Periódico newspaper. In a brief statement before the start of the event, the socialist leader said that "there are plenty of reasons and arguments to celebrate the validity and strength of the Constitution". This year he added two arguments. On the one hand, the fact that the Constitution has provided the means to declare the state of emergency, which is allowing an "effective response to the pandemic". On the other hand, the approval of new budgets after two years of "blockade" that allows to raise to a "maximum category the social part of the Constitution". For Sanchez, these are sufficient arguments to "celebrate the validity" of the Constitution and comply with it "every day of the year", because it is a text that "saves lives".

Unidas Podemos calls for a republic

The second vice-president of the Spanish government and leader of Unidas Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, did not make any statements today, but he did mark the path for his party in a publication in the digital newspaper Público, in which he said that "the best tribute that can be paid today to our country's heroes is to aspire to another republic". The leader of Unidas Podemos claims that the republic is "the constant historical destiny of democrats", and assures that republicans - those in favour of a republic - celebrate this December 6th the social and democratic improvements of the Constitution.

In short, the Spanish right and left wing parties have claimed on this day their reading of the Constitution. If throughout the last years - when the PP was governing - this event was a way for PSOE and Unidas Podemos to ask for a Constitutional reform, with Sánchez in power the PSOE has preferred to open the debate, although it has admitted that it is reformable. However, there are no majorities for a reform, and even the debate opened by the Spanish President himself on the elimination of the figure of the inviolability of the King has been buried. Curiously, the Spanish government has been the first to abandon the act, and the leader of the PP has been the last: perhaps this is a way of claiming the defense of the Magna Carta. "The Spanish Constitution is interpreted by the Constitutional Court, and not by politicians", said a high PP official about Batet's speech and Sanchez's statements. The Spanish president and the PP leader have not even greeted each other.