20/10/2021

Renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary and democratic hygiene

2 min
The president of the Judiciary, Carlos Lesmes.

BarcelonaThe PP and the PSOE have reached an agreement to renew members of the Constitutional Court, the Court of Auditors, the Data Protection Agency and the Ombudsman, whose mandates had expired. The names of the people who will take over is expected to be announced in the coming days. But at the same time, both parties have also moved closer to renewing the General Council of the Judiciary, the judges' governing body, whose mandate expired three years ago. The interim nature of this body, which decides, among other things, the appointments of judges, is especially scandalous because it has allowed the PP to maintain a conservative majority that currently does not reflect the composition of the Spanish Parliament. The General Council must be renewed for the sake of democratic hygiene.

In fact, the PP is the main culprit for the deadlock, because whenever the renewal has been attempted, and even when there was a pact with PSOE, it has backed out with different excuses. The first one was in 2018, when an infamous WhatsApp message by then PP spokesman in the Senate, Ignacio Cosidó, was leaked. In it he explained to his party colleagues that with the appointment of Manuel Marchena as president of the body they would control "from behind" the second chamber of the Supreme Court (the one that judges the PP's corruption cases). Afterwards there have been other frustrated attempts, for example the one denounced by former PP spokeswoman in the Spanish Parliament, Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo, before it was dismissed. Pablo Casado has always been afraid of the pact because of the reaction of both Vox and Cs, who accuse him of sharing the spoils with Sánchez.

Finally, a crack has now opened, despite the fact that the PP's condition is that the law regulating the election of the members of the General Council be changed so that it is the judges themselves who elect its members. It is clear that the PP is looking for a way to perpetuate conservative control of the body, since it is the most common ideological inclination amongst judges. However, it is positive that a reform of the law of the Judiciary is being undertaken so that the election does not become a political bargaining tool. But somehow the legislative power must maintain some control to prevent the conservative majority of judges from becoming a "government of the judges", or lawfare, in which justice ends up becoming a political player that corrects other democratic powers.

Unfortunately, this is happening in Spain with the actions of some judges in the case of the Catalan Independence bid, and we even see it now when Manuel Marchena is taking on Parliament over the disqualification of a Podemos MP. On the other hand, the Constitutional Court has become a third legislative chamber, assuming a role that is not its own.

Another debate that pro-independence forces will have to address is the need to take advantage of their parliamentary weight to gain a presence in these bodies. Experience shows that it can be useful to have eyes and influence in bodies that end up being decisive in Spanish politics.

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