The Spanish left and the new Constitutional Court

2 min
Candidate Enrique Arnaldo Alcubilla at the Congressional Advisory Committee on Nominations

BarcelonaThe Spanish Parliament witnessed a sad spectacle this Tuesday that confirms the strong confidence and legitimacy crisis suffered by key institutions for the functioning of democracy such as the Constitutional Court. In an unprecedented spectacle, the commission that had to rule on the suitability of the candidates agreed between the PP and the PSOE (and also Unidas Podemos) appeared half-empty because many groups decided to leave it at the beginning of the session or did not even show up as a form of protest against both the election system and the profile of some candidates.

This boycott surprisingly united the two extremes of the parliamentary arc. On the one hand, Vox and Ciudadanos withdrew after an initial intervention to make clear their opposition to what they consider the two main parties' sharing of the pie. The PNV and ERC did not even attend the session, while Junts MP Josep Labrador had some very harsh words for the PP candidates. The fact is that Enrique Arnaldo and Concepción Espejel's track records – candidates suggested by PSOE and UP were unanimously praised) deepens the politicisation of a body which, according to the law, must be made up of "jurists of recognised prestige" to act "independently".

Even the socialist spokesman, Odón Elorza, strongly criticised the names proposed by the PP, although later he had to vote in favour of their appointment. "Your candidacy generates distrust," Elorza said to Arnaldo after it became known that his companies had been contracted by administrations controlled by the PP and that he had even been charged in a corruption case. The spokeswoman of the Spanish government, Isabel Rodriguez, disregarded the profiles chosen by the Popular Party. "We only take responsibility for the names proposed by us, not by others," she said at the press conference after the Council of Ministers.

It can be understood that pragmatism forced the Spanish left to accept these profiles in exchange for unblocking the election of the members of the Constitutional Court, the Court of Auditors and other institutions such as the Ombudsman. But what cannot be done is to shirk responsibility. And the facts, right now, show that both the PSOE and Unidas Podemos are jointly responsible for the election of these two magistrates and, therefore, for the politicised image of a court that should act as a neutral arbiter and be legally impeccable.

These parties have to understand that a part of Catalan society has disconnected from the Spanish state precisely because of this colonization of the institutions that ends up degrading democracy. The PP (and now Vox) has long since turned the Constitutional Court into a third chamber where it overturns everything that its votes do not allow it to overturn in Parliaments. This is what happened with Catalonia's Statute of Autonomy, without going any further. Perhaps the day will come when there will be a more favourable progressive majority, but what is needed is to depoliticise the institution.