Up (down?) the Escher stairs

PEDRO SANCHEZ’S recent tweaking of the Penal Code included a stowaway amendment slipped in to bypass the Opposition’s ongoing obstruction of measures for installing new Constitutional Court (TC) judges.

At present, judges with expired terms are not being replaced while a similar deadlock over renewing General Judiciary Council members is preventing vacancies from being filled. The same problem occurs with the Supreme Court.

No matter that the amendment had nothing to do with the Penal Code, as previous PP and PSOE governments both used the same ruse to camouflage urgent business in the past.

The PP and Vox applied to the TC to halt the reform as a precautionary measure before it reached the Senate for rubber-stamping on December 22. With six Constitutional judges known to be conservative (with a small ‘c’) the outcome looked like a foregone conclusion. And it was.

In a situation resembling Escher’s version of staircases, two of the Constitutional Court judges making the decision had a vested interested in preventing the reforms from going through.

Pedro Gonzalez-Trevijano and Antonio Narvaez needed to be replaced last summer, but neither politicians nor the judiciary could agree on who should take their place.

The PSOE and UP parties lodged objections to Gonzalez-Trevijano and Narvaez’s involvement in the TC’s deliberations on Monday December 19 as no-one expected them to fall voluntarily on their own swords to assist a government they are known not to support. As expected, their lordships – in this case sus señorias – threw out the objection.

At 10.30pm on December 19 the TC decided after hours of debate, and with the expected six votes to five, to halt the Senate vote on the amendment that could have expedited its renewal.

This was the first time in decades of post-Franco democracy that the TC has prevented the Spanish parliament from doing its job.

So who’s to blame? Sanchez for trying it on, or the Opposition for stopping him?

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