Speaker leaves Podemos MP without a seat after clash with Supreme Court
The Supreme Court had asked the Speaker to disqualify Podemos MP Alberto Rodríguez
After the clash between the Supreme Court and Parliament over the conviction of Podemos MP Alberto Rodríguez, the president of the chamber, Meritxell Batet, has ended up deciding to leave Rodríguez without a seat. She has done so after the request by the president of the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court, Manuel Marchena, who this morning answered in writing in the clarification Batet asked him on Thursday on how the sentence ought to be executed and whether the fact of having received suspended prison sentence also affected his disqualification. Marchena has been categorical stating that "the validity" of the disqualification was maintained and recalled that it is mandatory, according to article 56 of the Penal Code.
In this way, the magistrate passed the ball back to Batet and asked her to execute the sentence. "Parliament's Speaker has communicated to Alberto Rodríguez MP the Supreme Court president's ruling, [...] which entails his expulsion from the House and the order by which its execution is provided," the Speaker reported in a statement. That is, Batet made Marchena fully responsible for the decision.
For Marchena it was already clear in the sentence how the sentence had to be applied: the fact that the prison sentence had was suspended did not mean that the disqualification did not have to be fulfilled. On the contrary, Rodríguez had to lose his seat. In fact, in the letter that he sent this morning to Batet, the magistrate also reminded him that his function was not to "advise other constitutional bodies" on how to apply a final sentence and recalled that he had already ruled out any clarification on how to execute the sentence when Rodriguez's defence requested it.
The lawyers' interpretation
Marchena's position was not shared by Parliament's lawyers, who last week issued a report in which they argued that the Podemos MP could keep his seat because, having paid the fine, the penalty was liquidated and, therefore, interpreted that the sentence had not come to "be born". The Bureau ignored the lawyers and, by majority (the representatives of PP and Vox opposed), allowed Rodriguez to keep his seat. But two days later Marchena sent a letter to Batet asking when Rodríguez's disqualification would start.
This morning, the leader of the opposition, Pablo Casado, has taken advantage of Marchena's response to criticise the Speaker and demanded that she bar Rodriguez, because "justice is equal for everyone, even for an MP who supports the Sánchez government". Upon receiving Marchena's letter, sources at the Bureau had already pointed out that the Speaker would take Rodríguez's seat by Monday at the latest. The Spanish president, Pedro Sánchez, has not made his position on the issue known and has asked for respect for "the independence" of the legislative and judicial power. "Now the legislature will have to pronounce itself soon," he said at a press conference from Brussels.
Unidas Podemos speaks of "misfeasance"
The decision is already taken, then, and Batet has already informed the Central Electoral Board in order to start the procedure to replace the MP, in addition to informing the Supreme Court. A few minutes after the news broke, the Minister of Social Rights and also secretary general of Podemos, Ione Belarra, tweeted accusing Batet of having yielded to "pressure" from the Supreme and has pointed to a crime of "misfeasance".