The Constitutional Court agreed with Vox and declared unconstitutional the suspension of terms in Congress during the first weeks of a state of alarm. A sentence that has three individual votes signed by four magistrates who consider that the measure was proportionate and implemented to protect the deputies themselves. They denounce that the majority of the judges have valued “by weight” the initiatives of the extreme right that were temporarily paralyzed and recall that the Constitutional he also suspended plenary sessions and deliberations for months at the same time.
The Constitutional also rejects the closure of Congress at the beginning of the pandemic
The Board of Congress decided on March 19 to suspend the regulatory deadlines for initiatives in process “until the Board lifts the suspension,” something that happened and was effective on April 13. The main argument of the six magistrates who agree with Vox is to consider that Congress effectively suspended the control activity of the Government and that the agreement did not have an end date nor did it offer any type of alternative, such as participation. telematics.
For the majority of the plenary session it was a decision taken “without nuance or caution” and for the four dissenting magistrates it was a proportionate and appropriate measure for the moment of maximum expansion of the pandemic between March and April. María Luisa Balaguer and Juan Antonio Xiol, for example, understand that the measure “was suitable to achieve the goal of preserving the collective health of deputies and staff of the Congress of Deputies.” The decision, developed in his particular vote by Cándido Conde-Pumpido, “was adopted for the benefit of the deputies themselves: firstly, to safeguard their health and lives; and secondly, to preserve parliamentary activity”.
Several of them recall that, by then, several outbreaks had already emerged in the hemicycle. A few days before, in fact, the Table suspended the activity of Congress for the positive of Javier Ortega Smith, one of the Vox deputies who sign these resources. The situation, recall the dissenting magistrates, was extreme those first weeks of the pandemic: Balaguer and Xiol say, for example, that “the measures adopted could hardly be other, both in their time and in their content and scope, without immediate possibilities to assess its impact “. Conde-Pumpido adds that “it cannot be claimed that parliamentary activity was alien to this serious situation.”
In addition, for the dissenting magistrates it is not true that the Congress of Deputies threw the bolt and the opposition could not exercise any type of control. In his particular vote, President Juan José González Rivas explains that this suspension of terms “did not completely limit the possibilities of the recurring deputies to control the Government and demand political responsibility” since they were able to do so “effectively” in various plenary sessions and committee meetings.
Balaguer and Xiol speak in the same direction. They affirm in their private vote that “there was no notable impairment of the fundamental nucleus of the parliamentary control function of the Chamber, even though for a few weeks it was not possible to convene the Plenary of Control to the Executive, so that it cannot be understood disproportionately limited exercise of ius in officium of the appellant deputies in defense “. They conclude that” it cannot be understood that there was an unacceptable delay in the whole of the parliamentary activity. ”
A valuation “by weight”
The sentence also welcomes another argument from the far-right party. In its appeal, Vox alleged that more than 1,600 initiatives to control the Government were paralyzed and the majority of the plenary session of the Constitutional Court refused to enter to examine what type of initiatives they were. It is the job of the lower house, they say, “to offer, on the contrary, arguments and elements of conviction that allow to prove that those initiatives were duly attended, processed and resolved.” Something that the four magistrates who sign the three individual votes reject outright, understanding that it would be necessary to go into detail.
The vote signed by Balaguer and Xiol, for example, rejects that a “weight assessment” can be made of the “alleged neglect suffered” by the Vox deputies. A search on the website of the Congress of Deputies shows that the Vox Parliamentary Group presented 145 initiatives between March 16 and April 9: many of them were related to the pandemic but there are also those about the abolition of the tax on probate, requests to eliminate certain pharmaceutical copays, questions about the delivery of Hugo ‘the Chicken’ Carvajal to the United States, the electoral advance of the Spanish Football Federation or a non-legislative proposition to prohibit whistling to the spanish anthem at sporting events.
These two dissenting magistrates point out that “a concrete analysis of the circumstances must be carried out and the peremptory nature of the initiatives taken by the appellants must be weighed.” Conde-Pumpido adds in his private opinion that it is not enough to “invoke a generic and vague complaint of the violation of parliamentary powers.” In his opinion, his colleagues should have rejected Vox’s allegation taking into account that they did not specify which parliamentary initiatives were affected.
More forceful is the president of the court, González Rivas, stating that “the decisive element” in deciding whether or not to estimate Vox’s appeal would have been that the far-right party had registered “a specific initiative that demonstrated the characteristics of relevance and urgency.” This magistrate explains that “it is not enough to reason that they presented hundreds of writings, because, in the special circumstances of a health crisis, the only thing that would lead to a violation of their right to political participation would have been that they had been prevented from starting essential control activities due to their relevance and / or urgency “.
The Constitutional also closed
The Congress of Deputies partially suspended its activity and suspended terms, but it was not the only public body that did so, including the Constitutional Court that suspended deadlines for more than three months and went 57 days without holding plenary sessions. The majority of the plenary session understands that they are not comparable cases “due to the importance of the role played by the Congress of Deputies in a situation of state of alarm.” The dissenting magistrates, however, believe that it is comparable.
It is President González Rivas who affirms that “the Constitutional Court has an equally prominent role in this situation of a state of alarm, this time in the legal control of the exercise of the aforementioned extraordinary powers, especially with regard to protection of the fundamental rights of citizens “.
Balaguer and Xiol directly point to the contradiction involved in making a different assessment of the two closures. These two dissenting magistrates say that “a greater clarification of this reasoning would have been necessary so that society could understand what peremptory nature justified this demand and, of course, for what reason it is predicable of the Congress, and not of the Courts of Justice or of itself. Constitutional Court, institutions in which jurisdictional terms were suspended, given the same danger of contagion “.