May 10, 2021

Congress knocks down the attempt to stop the reform that removes powers from the acting Judicial Power

The reform with which PSOE and Unidas Podemos intend to restrict the ability of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) to appoint judges with expired terms, as this body has been doing for more than two years, will continue to be processed in parliament. The Plenary of Congress, meeting in extraordinary session, has rejected this Thursday the amendments to the whole presented by PP, Vox, Ciudadanos and Junts per Catalunya (JxCat). These vetoes have been rejected by more than two-third of the House. Last December, the parties that make up the reinforced majority of the investiture They have already endorsed its taking into consideration.

The acting Judicial Power appoints new judges in full process of the reform that takes away powers

The acting Judicial Power appoints new judges in full process of the reform that takes away powers

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The text will continue to be processed through the emergency procedure, which reduces the deadlines by half, as agreed by the Board of Congress, where the Government partners have a majority. Both groups want the proposition to pass as soon as possible. They defend that the objective is to end a legal vacuum, since currently the only competence that the CGPJ cannot exercise in office is to appoint a new president. It is, they defend, a “democratic anomaly” that does not occur with the other powers of the State.

The groups that have presented the amendments to the totality that have been rejected have exposed, however, that it does not make sense to limit the powers of the CGPJ when the problem, they argue, is the current system of election of the members. They have also criticized its urgent processing outside of the regular session.

During the debate, the spokesmen of PP, Vox and Ciudadanos have lashed out harshly against the initiative, considering that it represents an “interference” of the Executive branch in Justice. The PP deputy in charge of defending the position of his group, Luis Santamaría, has described as “parliamentary outrage” the processing “urgently” and “excluding” the reports of the CGPJ itself of this reform, which, in his opinion, represents a “Challenge for Justice”. In fact, Santamaría has described it as a “Polish reform”, alluding to the judicial reforms of the Polish Executive, which accumulates disapproval from the European Union for its authoritarian drift. “These are the ways of a government without background or form,” he asserted.

With its amendment to the whole, the PP defended an alternative text to the reform in which it proposed that the majority of the members of the CGP – the twelve of judicial extraction – be chosen by the judges themselves, a system that Vox and Ciudadanos also defend . JxCat, for its part, proposed that any judge can run for those positions and that the election falls to Congress, where each deputy may vote for four candidates, a system similar to that of the election of the Board of the Chamber, as explained by his deputy Jaume Alonso-Cuevillas.

With a very harsh speech, the spokesman for Ciudadanos in Congress, Edmundo Bal, has described this reform as an “insult” and “provocation”. “This interference that the executive branch does to the judiciary by attacking its independence is alarming,” he added, while accusing the investiture partners of disturbing the opposition’s rights to political participation for using the emergency procedure to process it. On the other hand, Bal has defended that the 68 appointments that the CGPJ has agreed to in the more than two years that it has been with the expired mandate are “perfectly legal and legitimate” and has accused PSOE and Podemos of wanting to “name their friends” in the governing body of the judges. “Are they afraid of their corruption cases?” He asked from the rostrum.

“It is always the same. Either justice does what I want or I paralyze its powers. What we are debating today is nothing more than a tightening of the screw to the Judicial Power, ”has criticized Javier Ortega Smith, from Vox. The deputy of the far-right party has affirmed that in Spain there is a “model of interference” in which only magistrates who approach the political sphere gain access to high positions in the judiciary. Ortega Smith has also criticized the “aberration” that supposes that Congress “is trying to control the CGPJ and the power it has to appoint judges.”

The reform proposed by the PSOE and United We Can aims to prevent an interim Council from doing discretionary appointments like those that the governing body of the judges has approved this Thursday. There are already 68 since December 2018, when his term expired. The way in which this initiative is processed has opened a new front for the Government with the governing body of the judges. 16 of its 21 members – the eleven conservatives and four progressives plus President Lesmes – accuse the coalition partners of violating “the requirements of the principle of separation of powers” for processing it “urgently” and “without hearing of any kind” .

On October 13, PSOE and Unidos Podemos registered another proposal with which they intended lower the majority required to renew the CGPJ. This text was questioned by the European Commission, the Council of Europe, the opposition and three of the four judicial associations and was withdrawn by the Government just nine days later. It seemed that a negotiation path was then being opened with the PP to renew the CGPJ, which had demanded the withdrawal of the reform to sit down to negotiate and which has been putting different arguments on the table for months not to unblock the situation. The last one, that “during the state of alarm the institutions of the State cannot be renewed”.


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