For less than a year, the Constitutional Court has had a majority of judges with a progressive profile, unprecedented in a decade. This is a configuration that, in recent months, has made relevant decisions on issues such as abortion, euthanasia or the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), rejecting resources from the right and provoking the reaction of PP and Vox. The accusations of being a politicized body from both parties and some areas of the judicial world run parallel to the decisions of the plenary session that dismiss their allegations against some of the most relevant measures of the coalition executive.
Cándido Conde-Pumpido was a judge of the Supreme Court before joining the Constitutional Court and was attorney general of the State during the two terms of office of the socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. This implies that his differences with the right in general and the PP, in particular, are not new. In 2006 it was Mariano Rajoy who requested his dismissal due to a disagreement with the Police. A year earlier, the party announced a complaint for prevarication against him for investigating urban irregularities in Majadahonda, the epicenter of the Gürtel plot. When that case broke out, the PP also blamed Conde-Pumpido for the leaks of a case that ended, a decade later, with the departure of Rajoy from Moncloa.
The accusations that Cándido Conde-Pumpido puts the institutions he directs at the service of the PSOE are, therefore, not new at number 13 Génova Street in Madrid. His time in the Supreme Court and his first years in the Constitutional Court went unnoticed by the right until, a little over a year ago, an agreement signed precisely by the PP with the socialists opened the door for him to preside over a majority Constitutional Court. progressive.
Cándido Conde-Pumpido, therefore, became president of the Constitutional Court after an agreement accepted by the PP laid the first stone on the path to a progressive majority in the plenary session, overlooking the attempt of the also progressive María Luisa Balaguer to get the votes of the conservative sector to win the position. A progressive majority that has overturned with its votes some of the most relevant resources of PP and Vox against the rules of the current coalition executive.
Alberto Núñez-Feijóo has made his debut as president of the PP with resounding defeats in the court of guarantees. The party’s appeals against the 2010 abortion law and against the current euthanasia regulations were rejected. The one they presented against the Rider law that seeks to combat the abuse of temporality on home delivery platforms has also been rejected.
The criticisms of the PP since the last partial renewal of the organization, with the arrival of Conde-Pumpido to its presidency, have been aimed at questioning the legitimacy of its decisions once a progressive majority has been established and that the decisions taken without unanimity have reversed the previous proportion that, with a conservative majority, carried out resolutions such as the one that gagged Parliament during the last renewal.
“Sanchism,” a concept used by the right, has turned the Constitutional Court into a “weakened institution.” The PP leader Elías Bendodo said it on the same day that Conde-Pumpido was elected president of the guarantee court last January. “Europe has to know that more than 10% of the TC are former senior government officials,” Alberto Núñez Feijóo also stated in an interview with the Servimedia agency.
The statements were different when the decisions of the Constitutional Court were favorable to the postulates of the PP or, at least, contrary to the coalition government. Feijóo himself, before becoming president of the party, described as “reasonable” the decision that the court would make shortly after annulling the state of alarm imposed by the executive to combat the advances of the pandemic. A few years earlier, his predecessor, Pablo Casado, stood up to Ciudadanos’ criticism of the court and defended its integrity: “What responsibility does a party offer that, on the eve of the secessionist challenge, calls into question our political system?” Casado asked. in 2015.
Vox is shipwrecked in the Constitutional
Numerous Vox resources have followed the same path after their triumphs against the state of alarm: the temporary decree, the CGPJ reform that prevents acting appointments or euthanasia. In the case of Santiago Abascal’s party, the account of pending appeals can only get thinner: the disaster of the last elections has left it without enough deputies to present this type of appeal against central executive regulations. This party, which has even proposed the disappearance of the Constitutional Court in its electoral program, requested in July that the European Union investigate a “politicization” of the organization that it did not denounce when the court upheld its appeals against the two states of alarm.
Some of these criticisms have also come from the Community of Madrid and its president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso. In one of her first acts in the last electoral campaign, Ayuso criticized that the Constitutional Court had made public its ruling on the abortion law so close to the campaign and stated that Pedro Sánchez had “colonized” the court of guarantees. In recent days, this court has overturned the Ayuso law that limited access to euthanasia for people with disabilities, understanding that it went beyond its functions. And she has done it unanimously among progressives and conservatives. In addition, she is preparing to reject in the coming weeks the appeal of the Community of Madrid against the tax on large fortunes.
“The 7-4 does a lot of damage”
Criticism of the current situation of the Constitutional Court has also come from another branch of the State: the president of the CGPJ, in office and whose mandate has expired since December 2018. Vicente Guilarte, in office since last July, stated in a interview with the newspaper El Mundo that the decisions made with the progressive majority versus the conservative minority sent a “devastating” message to citizens. “Formulas should be sought to avoid it, because the 7-4 does a lot of damage to the credibility of the body and the system,” said the lawyer and professor.
Guilarte himself, considered a member of the conservative sector of the CPGJ since 2013, is part of a governing body of judges that since its last renewal has been the protagonist of a division between blocks that has become accentuated since its mandate expired. This gap has been reflected, for example, in some appointments of the judicial leadership that preceded the reform that prevented the Council from continuing to make them. Also in the negotiations that kept the partial renewal of the Constitutional Court paralyzed for months. Or in the approval of reports on the Housing Law, the Democratic Memory Law or the latest reform of the abortion law.
Criticism has also come from judicial associations such as Francisco de Vitoria, which expressly avoids being called “conservative” and which in a statement issued following the ruling that endorsed the reform of the CGPJ to stop appointments while in office. This organization stated the following: “The TC is facing a serious crisis of credibility, due both to the criteria for electing its magistrates that are highly suspected of politicization and to the systematic procedure of the court by blocks, which is hardly compatible with resolution methods in those who prioritize the legal over the ideological.”
From that association they also expressed the “concern” that, they stated, they had that the resolution left in writing that “there is no exclusive constitutional definition of the system of appointment of members of the CGPJ”, venturing other systems of majorities. “This statement, as well as the arguments that support it, were absolutely unnecessary to resolve,” the statement stated.
Criticism from different areas has also had an unusual response on Domenico Scarlatti Street in Madrid: statements denying even the interpretations of their sentences or denying information that they consider erroneous. “The Constitutional Court has not said anything about the future renewal of the Council,” the statement stated. “Only a reading out of context of the sentence and its disclosure have generated a false controversy.” In another statement they denied information that alluded to the processing of appeals in the case of the ERE of Andalusia. A previous one, from July, denied information that attributed to Conde-Pumpido the intention to reject all the appeals presented by Vox.
Conde-Pumpido, the PP and the amnesty law
The latest accusations from the PP towards the Constitutional Court have come about a hypothetical amnesty law that the Government would be negotiating to obtain the Junts votes, necessary to invest Pedro Sánchez. Elías Bendodo, general coordinator of the PP, stated last Thursday that the president of the Constitutional Court himself exchanged documents about this future law with Gonzalo Boye, Carles Puigdemont’s lawyer.
“Even more serious would be if this lawyer was in contact and exchanging papers regarding the amnesty with the president of the Constitutional Court himself. That would be very serious and a lethal blow to our democracy,” Bendodo speculated about some alleged contacts that are categorically denied by both Conde-Pumpido’s entourage and that of the lawyer. Without evidence on the table, the PP has turned this issue into a workhorse. “Bendodo challenges Sánchez to clarify whether Puigdemont’s lawyer, convicted of terrorism, dictates the amnesty law and negotiates with Conde-Pumpido,” headlines a statement on the website of Alberto Núñez-Feijóo’s party.
The list of disagreements between PP, Vox and the Constitutional Court may increase, depending on the result of their decisions, in the coming months: the plenary session still has pending deliberation of resources from both parties or communities where they govern against the Trans law, the tax to great fortunes, the reform of the abortion law, the ‘only yes is yes’ law, the Democratic Memory law, the housing law, the reform of sedition and embezzlement or the different reforms of the CGPJ, among many others .