The future of Alberto Rodríguez's seat is decided in the Constitutional Court

On October 6, 2021, the criminal chamber of the Supreme Court signed a sentence that resulted in a political earthquake in the Congress of Deputies. Alberto Rodriguez, until then a parliamentarian of United We Can for Santa Cruz de Tenerife, was sentenced to a month and a half in prison for kicking a police officer at a demonstration in 2014. The sentence made it clear that the deputy did not have to go to prison, but it did allow a question in the air: whether or not he could keep his seat in the lower house. The Congress consulted the Supreme Court and after its response withdrew the minutes. A year and a half later, the Constitutional Court has made it clear that the answer was not so clear and that it will have to study the matter because there are no records in its databases to compare.

The plenary session of the court of guarantees announced this Thursday that it admitted two appeals from Alberto Rodríguez for processing. One against the sentence of the Supreme Court and the order that rejected the incident of nullity; another against the decision made by Meritxell Batet on October 22, 2021 and which meant that Rodríguez was left without a seat.

The path to these two resolutions, as evidenced by the admission of the Constitutional Court, was not linear and raises legal doubts today. The ruling of the Supreme Court did not specify in its ruling whether the sentence of disqualification from the right to passive suffrage implied not only that he could not stand for election in a month and a half, but also if it also prevented him from continuing in his seat in Congress. The "supervening ineligibility" stole the prominence of the case from the agent who said he was attacked, the videos of the trial and Rodríguez's own claim about the right to demonstrate.

At that time, different sources from the second room told several media outlets that there was no doubt: Rodríguez had to leave his seat, just like Oriol Junqueras ran out his in the europarliament after being convicted of sedition in the cause of the procés. Meanwhile, the lawyers of the Congress reeled the order of execution and the verdict of the sentence and reached the opposite conclusion: Rodríguez could continue to represent United We Can in the lower house because they understood that his conviction prevented him from standing for election, but that this did not imply "disqualification regarding charges already obtained."

Various sources from various chambers of the Supreme Court then acknowledged to this newspaper that this was not a simple case and that there were no identical records in the contentious chamber, before which, for example, agreements are appealed like that of the Electoral Board in the case of Oriol Junqueras. The uncertainty led the president of Congress, Meritxell Batet, and the Board to address directly to the criminal court for further explanation.

This unprecedented epistolary exchange led to an answer which also had to be read carefully. "As you know, the Judiciary Law does not include among the functions of the Supreme Court that of advising other constitutional bodies about the terms of execution of an already final sentence," the letter said. He also explained that the sentence of disqualification was "mandatory" in the case of Alberto Rodríguez. That same day, Batet announced the withdrawal of his seat. Along the way, an incident of annulment and a request to suspend the execution of the sentence of disqualification were rejected.

The Constitutional Court has reopened the door of the debate with the admission for processing of the two resources of Rodríguez. The court of guarantees explained yesterday in a statement that the two passed the initial filter of the magistrates because they did not have applicable records. "The Plenary understands that in both resources there is special constitutional importance because both pose a problem or affect a facet of a fundamental right on which there is no doctrine of this Court," the statement said. The case of the former deputy of United We Can, in addition, "transcends the specific case, because it could have general political consequences."

The battle of precautionary measures is still to be fought. For the moment, the plenary session has refused to annul in a very precautionary manner the decision of Congress to leave him without a seat, but has launched the process of precautionary measures: all parties must report on whether Rodríguez can regain his seat until there is a sentence. Here time plays an essential role: the next general elections, if there are no advances, will be in November 2023. The magistrates have to decide if the balance of the periculum in mora (danger of delay) tips in their favor and return the seat because, if he is right, by the time there is a sentence his case will no longer have a solution.

Seven months after his expulsion from Congress, United We Can has not yet managed to replace Alberto Rodríguez's seat due to discrepancies between the state leadership of Podemos and that of the Canary Islands, where the ex-deputy is from. However, the spokesman for the confederal group in Parliament, Pablo Echenique, takes advantage of every time he is asked about this issue to hold the president of the Lower House, Meritxell Batet, responsible for the situation.

In his opinion, "the seat was stolen from an elected deputy by a sentence, first, unfair and without evidence, because he never committed the crime that he is said to have committed, and furthermore, in that sentence it did not say that the act had to be taken away from him" . “However, the Presidency of the Congress of Deputies and Mr. [presidente de la Sala Segunda del Tribunal Supremo, Manuel] Marchena decided to take away his seat. This is very serious”, he denounced in March, in an interview in elDiario.es.

“The responsibility for missing a seat and that, for example, the labor reform went ahead because a PP deputy made a mistake, belongs to Meritxell Batet and Marchena, not to United We Can. We are humbly working to try to restore that seat, but, at the same time, we have not forgotten who has taken it from the progressive majority”, insists the spokesman for United We Can, a group that two months ago was left without another seat due to the decision of another Canarian deputy, Meri Pita, to move to the Mixed Group due to discrepancies with the management.

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