Boycott or agreement for the Constitutional: cross calls and last minute meetings in the Judiciary

The members of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) in office intensify their contacts before the key appointment on Thursday, when an extraordinary plenary session is convened to appoint the two corresponding magistrates of the Constitutional Court. In recent days there have been phone calls and face-to-face and telematic meetings to try to agree on the two names - a conservative and a progressive - who must reconcile the support of at least 12 of the 19 current members of the plenary. The talks will continue in the next few hours. A block to the renewal of the court of guarantees would increase the tension between the expired governing body of the judges and the Government, which in principle intends to wait for these appointments to be made to appoint the other two magistrates that correspond to it and that, foreseeably , will allow to end the conservative majority of the Constitutional.

Although on other occasions it has sought an institutional clash, President Carlos Lesmes now rejects a blockade scenario that does weigh part of the majority conservative sector. The eight members of the progressive minority, disunited in many key votes of this mandate, do agree now that the court of guarantees must be renewed. Failure to do so, some of its members maintain, would increase the discredit of the governing body of the judges and would place them as violators of the law.

Some of the ten members of the conservative sector, however, resent accepting law reform that allowed the CGPJ to recover its powers in the election of Constitutional judges and have explored in recent days different possibilities of blocking. Eight of them are expected to meet on Tuesday night in Madrid to see the different scenarios. There are those who consider voting blank or doing so only for the conservative candidate and preventing a complete renewal. Sources in this sector question that these appointments leave the Supreme Court even more depleted, which has several vacancies in its workforce that cannot be renewed, since the usual thing is that the candidates for the court of guarantees leave the High Court.

Lesmes has worked hard in recent days and weeks to avoid this hypothetical boycott. At the same time that he sounded out Supreme Court judges willing to occupy those positions, he has increased the efforts to obtain support in the conservative sector and that the appointments, if they finally occur, are not by the minimum. The sources consulted affirm that, in addition to himself, there are three or four conservative members aligned with him who, added to the eight progressive ones, would make it possible for a partisan majority to make the appointments. Even if it was for the minimum.

In the last few hours, Lesmes has told his interlocutors in the progressive wing —Álvaro Cuesta and Rafael Mozo— that his will was to gather enough support to make the appointments, although he did not give them guarantees that it could be done this week. What this scenario shows, the sources consulted affirm, is that Lesmes has lost "control" of the conservative wing.

This Monday, in an unusual intervention before the media, the president insisted that the members must "obey the law" and censured that the institution declares itself "in absentia" no matter how much he does not like the reform that he returned last July the CGPJ the ability to make appointments in the Constitutional but not in other fundamental bodies. For example, he described the situation in the High Court as "devastating", which has lost more than a dozen judges due to retirements and deaths without being able to fill those vacancies as a result of the blockade in the renewal of the CGPJ and the reform that prevents appointments in the judicial dome.

Visibly angry, Lesmes denied that behind his desire for the CGPJ to comply with the law and appoint these magistrates is his interest in being promoted to the Constitutional Court, as journalistic reports have affirmed, and he ruled himself out to be a candidate for the guarantee body in "the immediate future." ”. In his opinion, the objective of these accusations is to “mediatize” his position and prevent these appointments from being made, although he warned that he is not going to “wobble”. "The laws must be followed," he asserted. These words have irritated part of the conservative sector, where they recall that no law establishes the obligation to reach agreements and that Lesmes, no matter how much he is the president, has "a single vote".

The contacts will be maintained this Wednesday, when the members are expected to coincide in the opening act of the Judicial Year 2022-2023 that is held in the Supreme Court. The eight progressives —six chosen at the proposal of the PSOE, one from the PNV and one from the IU— will meet in the morning. They will do it, in principle, to decide their candidate and then they will transfer the name Lesmes. Progressives have several names on the table. The one who seems to have more options is José Manuel Bandrés, although those of Pablo Lucas and Ángeles Huet are also being considered. The three are currently part of the Contentious-Administrative Chamber of the Supreme Court.

On the conservative side, the names of Antonio Sempere, from the Sala de lo Social; and Francisco Marín and Ignacio Sancho, from the Civil Chamber. The sources consulted maintain that they are prestigious jurists, with profiles "not too uncomfortable" for the progressive wing, where candidates from the other sector are not expected to be vetoed. But nothing is written. The members are preparing for a plenary session that some describe as "unusual" and in which, they say, "anything" can happen.

According to the law, the appointments must be made before September 13, although today no one guarantees that this will be the case. The CGPJ is a body in which diverse interests converge and its appointments have often been surrounded by controversy. Lesmes already warned about it last Monday: “The appointments of the Council are not easy, because it is difficult to find wills directed towards the same person. It is difficult to unite those wills ”.

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