The Judiciary postpones sine die the appointment of its two magistrates and leaves the renewal of the Constitutional in the air

The extraordinary plenary session of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) in office held this Thursday has ended without an agreement regarding the appointments that it must make in the Constitutional Court. The members have not even come to discuss possible candidates. After a meeting that has lasted for more than three hours, they have only agreed to set procedural rules on how to designate the applicants and have been summoned to start negotiations on the names through some interlocutors, although without a deadline, they report sources of the organ to elDiario.es. These rules establish that another plenary session can only be held when there is a prior agreement on the candidates. The sources consulted assume that, with this scenario, the election of the Constitutional magistrates will not take place before September 13, the deadline provided for in the law.

Lesmes threatens to resign "in weeks" if the Judiciary is not renewed

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This situation of blockade is propitiated by the conservative sector. Eight of his members had anticipated this week his refusal to talk about appointments without first setting some "rules of the game." That is, an election and voting system that can generate hypothetical “consensus”. The underlying reason, however, is that they are against the reforms that the Government has approved to circumvent the PP's blockade of the renewal of the CGPJ, whose mandate has expired since December 2018. The first of those reforms prevented the members from continuing to name magistrates –some for positions as important as the Supreme Court or the National High Court– with expired mandates, and the second authorized them to do so in the case of the Constitutional. After the planting of the eight conservative members, the progressives decided not to propose any candidate at this meeting.

The blockade of the imminent renewal of the court of guarantees by the CGPJ raises the tension between the interim governing body of the judges and the Government, which will not appoint its two Constitutional magistrates until the CGPJ appoints its own. Thus, the plans of the Executive to change the conservative majority for a progressive one in the body in charge of interpreting the fundamental norm of the State and that will pronounce, among other matters, on abortion, euthanasia or the reform approved by the Government to prevent that the CGPJ appoint judges with expired mandates, as was happening until March 2021.

These appointments must reconcile the support of at least 12 of the 19 current members of the CGPJ plenary. They therefore need the support of members from both sectors of the body, now made up of 11 conservatives —including the president, Carlos Lesmes— and eight progressives. The result should be a conservative court magistrate and a progressive one, in accordance with custom. Today, however, it is impossible to know when the appointments will be made.

The eight conservatives constituted in the blocking minority insist that the "decision times" of the CGPJ must be respected and privately acknowledge that the agreement may take weeks and even months to arrive. The threat of resignation that President Lesmes launched this Wednesday if the parties do not agree to renew the CGPJ in the coming weeks has added even more uncertainty. However, his idea is to complete or, at least get on track, the negotiations for the renewal of the Constitutional Court before that hypothetical resignation, as he clarified to journalists.

In any case, this lack of consensus evidences the failure of the assignment that Lesmes made to the members last July, when he urged them to agree on two candidates capable of gathering the minimum of 12 necessary votes. The planting of the eight conservative members —who refuse, for the time being, to speak of names— led the progressives to attend this plenary session also without candidates.

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