Feijóo, the last senator by autonomous appointment: the tricks to place politicians in Madrid without going through the polls

The Senate was for years considered an "elephant graveyard". The big parties – especially PSOE and PP – placed former regional presidents, former organic leaders or veteran deputies to guarantee them a representative position, a generous salary and the appraisal – senators can only be prosecuted by the Supreme Court – in the last years of their professional lives. It is also a second-reading chamber –the legislative function is always held by Congress–, where the work is, therefore, more reflective than that of the Lower House.

There is also an advantage in being able to make these appointments of senators without the need to go to the polls: 57 of the 265 parliamentarians are appointed by the regional parliaments, so the predominant parties in these regional chambers have secured several positions, which are distributed according to the population of each of the territories.

Since 2014, with the emergence on the Spanish political scene of new parties such as Podemos and Ciudadanos and the consequent decrease in the representation of the large formations in the different parliaments, the latter no longer use that system only to give work to their most veteran leaders. . The successive leaders of the PP and PSOE make senators out of rank-and-file comrades who do not achieve representation in Congress, to whom they want to give public prominence or to compensate for the services provided in past stages of each of the parties.

On Thursday, the regional designation formula was used by the Galician PP to appoint a senator, through the Galician Parliament, to its new national leader, Alberto Núñez Feijóo. He is not a deputy in Congress and, therefore, cannot participate in the face-to-face meetings with the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, in the Executive control sessions. From now on he will be able to do so in the Senate. Feijóo promised his position just a few minutes before his right-hand man in the Galician PP swore in and, now, at the Génova Street headquarters, Miguel Tellado, also placed in the Upper House in search of visibility state.

Until this week, that method had never been used to try to give a voice to the leader of one of the greats for not having representation in Congress. The now President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, was also not a deputy when he was elected General Secretary of the PSOE for the second time, in June 2017. But the Socialists did not opt ​​for this option now adopted by the Popular Party and Sánchez served as leader of the opposition during a year, until the motion of censure that defeated Mariano Rajoy, in 2018, without having any type of parliamentary representation, and therefore, with visibility difficulties outside of press conferences and party events.

Another controversial case of placement of leaders in the Upper House was that of the recently ratified PP spokesman in the Senate, Javier Maroto. The trick devised in his day by Pablo Casado's PP to give one of his most faithful squires a representative position was questioned by the rest of the parties. Victim of the failure of the PP in the general elections of 2019, by not being able to be a deputy for his constituency, Álava, Casado sought a fit for the Basque leader by devising the registration of him in Castilla y León, in the town of Sotosalbos, and later he made the popular majority in the Castilian and Leonese Courts elect him senator by regional appointment. He has recently been restrained in office by the Castilian and Leonese Courts that emerged from the elections last February.

These movements aimed at giving positions to colleagues in similar ranks are not exclusive to the popular ones. In May 2019, the PSOE leadership tried to place the then leader of the PSC and today Minister of Culture, Miquel Iceta, in the Senate, also with the idea that he be president of the Upper House, being appointed by the Parliament of Catalonia where Iceta acted as spokesman for the Socialists. But although the PSC did correspond to the election of one of the senators by autonomous appointment, the pro-independence forces with a majority in the Catalan chamber they vetoed Iceta's election, frustrating the claims of the socialist leadership of Pedro Sánchez. The PSC appealed the decision of the Parlament before the Constitutional Court that last month gave the reason in part and ruled that the regional chamber violated the rights of the socialists by the voting system used.

A look at the hemicycle shows how the big parties continue to use the Senate to place leaders who in the past were in the political front line or who want to be rewarded for their loyalty to the party or the leader of the moment. In the socialist caucus are, among others, the former president of the Valencian Community Joan Lerma or the former president of the Andalusian Government, Susana Díaz, who was Sánchez's rival in the primaries won by today's president of the Government and to whom the management Socialist placed in the Upper House through the Andalusian parliament after losing the PSOE primaries in his community, in June 2021. In search of a state projection he was also appointed senator by the Parliament of Andalusia who won that fight against Díaz, the candidate of the PSOE to the Presidency of the Junta de Andalucía for the elections on June 19, Juan Espadas.

The PP bench is also full of former regional presidents whom the latest directorates have wanted to reward for the services provided by giving them a seat in the Senate. This is the case of the former president of Aragon Luisa Fernanda Rudi or Pedro Rollán from Madrid – interim president for a few months after Ángel Garrido jumped to Ciudadanos. Another historical member of the Upper House is Javier Arenas, the eternal candidate of the PP for the Presidency of the Junta de Andalucía who never achieved enough support to govern while he led the popular Andalusians, between 2004 and 2012, but who maintains the seat in the Senate by regional appointment practically consecutively for 14 years.

José Manuel Barreiro, whom the Galician PP appointed senator by the Galician Parliament in 2008, has also been in the Upper House for the same years, just two years after having faced the current leader of the party, Feijóo, for the presidency of the Galician popular to succeed Manuel Fraga. From 2011 and until the arrival of Casado to the presidency of the Barreiro party, he was the spokesman for the PP in the Upper House, enjoying the full confidence of another Galician, the former president of the Government Mariano Rajoy.

He was succeeded by Ignacio Cosidó, whom the former leader of the PP placed as the visible head of the party in the Senate by autonomous appointment of the Cortes de Castilla y León in compensation for his support in the 2018 primaries in which Casado was the winner. He held out until July 2019, shortly after they met. the controversial WhatsApp message that Sewn sent in a group of senators when Casado and Sánchez agreed on the distribution of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), which was frustrated precisely because of that text in which he boasted that his party had managed to designate the presidency of said body -in the person of Manuel Marchena, who resigned after the leak–, something that allowed him to control "from behind" the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court, which is in charge of corruption matters such as those that have affected the PP.

In this legislature, the PP has also awarded seats in the Senate without going through the polls to the former leader of the party in Catalonia Alicia Sánchez Camacho, appointed by the Madrid Assembly, or to the former president of the Valencian Generalitat Alberto Fabra.

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