Wednesday, February 07, 2007

There's a massive constitutional stink going on over here in Spain. It's confusing, but illustrative of the state of government around here.

1. A few months ago the Spanish parliament approved a new "statute of autonomy" (something like a state constitution in the US) for Catalonia, after negotiations between Socialist Prime Minister of Spain Zap and CiU leader Artur Mas.

2. The new statute is not popular on the Right or among centralist elements on the Left. The PP, among other organizations, filed a judicial review appeal to the Constitutional Court, saying that the new statute violated the Spanish constitution in a myriad of ways. The most important violations were related to the division of powers between the national and regional governments; the PP and its allies say that the statute arrogates powers to the Catalan regional government which the constitution reserves to the Spanish central government.

3. Well, that's fine, that's the way we do things in a representative democracy under the rule of law. If the legislature does something you think is unconstitutional, you appeal it to the courts.

4. On Monday, the Constitutional Court voted 6-5 to recuse judge Pérez Tremps, a leftist member of the Court, on the grounds that he had been paid as a consultant on the very issue of division of power for the Generalitat, the Catalan regional government, before his appointment to the Court. Note that Pérez Tremps did not feel it necessary to recuse himself.

5. This means that the Constitutional Court will most likely vote 6-5 to overturn the Catalan statute.

6. Media shitstorm.

7. Now there is pressure on Pérez Tremps to resign his position on the Court so that Zap can appoint another judge to take his place, which would presumably make the vote 6-6.

8. Many people have therefore concluded that one massive problem with democracy in Spain is that there is no pretense that the judiciary is a neutral honest broker. Rather, the judiciary is openly political. Which means that there will always be an element of society that refuses to accept its verdict as a honest judgement.

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