Constitutional Court fuels right-wing battle against Sánchez

The high court has already overturned the first state of alarm and has now decided to study several appeals by the PP and Vox

3 min
The president of the Congress, Meritxell Batet, in an archive image

MadridWhen on 14 July the twelve judges of the Constitutional Court (TC) overturned - divided and following an appeal by Vox - the first state of alarm decreed by the government of Pedro Sánchez to deal with the first wave of the pandemic, the newly elected Minister of Justice, Pilar Llop, appeared in public to show the discomfort of the Moncloa before the sentence. An unprecedented move until now, but one that showed that the battle between the coalition government and the Spanish right is not only being fought in the Cortes Generales, but that the courts are playing an increasingly important role. In the coming months, the TC has to resolve a battery of appeals filed by the PP and Vox that question regulations as relevant as the reform of the law of the Judiciary (LOPJ) or the law of euthanasia. The decisions that the high court will end up taking can dismantle fundamental axes of the policies of Sanchez's government.

The annulment of the first state of alarm was a real blow to the management of the PSOE and Unidas Podemos, and a victory for the right-wing that loaded it with arguments to ask, once again, for Pedro Sánchez's resignation. The decision filled the battlefield between the right-wing and the coalition government with ammunition, and it is likely that the situation will increase in the coming weeks. Looking ahead to October, the high court also plans to overturn the closure of Congress during the first state of alarm, after the magistrate who drafted the ruling decided to change the direction of his brief, reports Ernesto Ekaizer. In this way, the TC would once again agree with Vox, who filed the appeal, and would support the thesis that the rights of the deputies were violated when the lower house, presided over by Meritxell Batet, decided, in the midst of lockdown, to freeze all deadlines for parliamentary initiatives until 13 April.

However, it is paradoxical, or at least curious, to remember that it was the same party - headed by Santiago Abascal - who asked Batet by letter on 10 March to paralyse the legislative activity of the chamber before the first state of alarm was decreed. Vox, moreover, also voted in favour of this first lockdown. Months later, however, the far-right party decided to take to court two measures that they themselves had endorsed.

The precedent of the annulment of the first state of alarm paves the way for the appeal that the formation of Santiago Abascal also presented against the second state of alarm - which was decreed in October last year - and its extension of six months. If finally the TC also sentences against this second lockdown and against the decision of the Congressional bureau, it would be the third victory of Vox in the courts in a few months. The far-right party has already won the battle against former Spanish vice-president Pablo Iglesias when the TC ruled against him sitting on the Spanish government's commission on the CNI.

CGPJ appointments

For the time being, the TC has not rejected any of the appeals presented by the Popular Party and the far-right, and it has dealt with all their attempts to obstruct the government's actions. The latest proof is the plenary session of last Thursday, when the magistrates unanimously admitted the resources of the PP and Vox against the reform of the organic law of the Judiciary (LOPJ), approved in March, which limited the powers of the body when it is in office. Among the measures, it prohibited further appointments to positions with expired mandates. 

With more than a thousand days of deadlock over the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), any decision that calls into question the reform promoted by the government and endorsed by its investiture partners would be a victory for the PP. In recent weeks, the conservatives have put the ball in the PSOE's court by offering to sit down and negotiate if they simultaneously process the reform of the system for electing judges. The truth is, however, that the Popular Party is in no hurry to renew the current judicial leadership, where there is a conservative majority.

The euthanasia and Celaá laws

The strategy of the PP and Vox to try to stop the policies of the PSOE and Unidas Podemos in the courts has also resulted in bringing to court such relevant regulations as the new education law, the so-called Celaá law, or the law on euthanasia, which entered into force not even three months ago. But also in challenging issues such as the endorsement by the legislative chambers of the formulas for compliance with the Constitution used by pro-independence MPs, which are also awaiting a ruling from the TC. 

Among the few judicial victories that the government has achieved, the one that stands out is this week's, when the National Court upheld the dismissal of Colonel Diego Pérez de los Cobos. So far, however, the right has managed to enlist the courts as its best allies.