Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Atrapat En El Temps

Here we go again. Just when it seemed that the long debate over the reform of Cataluña’s autonomy statute had finally been resolved, after what seemed to be an interminable process, it has suddenly bounced back into the limelight. The reform was approved by the Spanish parliament despite fierce opposition from the Partido Popular (PP), and was also approved in a referendum in Cataluña back in June last year. That would have been the end of the matter, if the PP had not presented many of their objections to the Constitutional Tribunal alleging that parts of the reform are unconstitutional.

Even if the political manoeuvring had ended with the presentation of this case, then the verdict of the tribunal would probably have been to accept the reform with perhaps some minor modifications; politically the tribunal is fairly evenly balanced. But the PP took their challenge a step further and challenged the eligibility for the hearing of one of the judges, clearly this was not going to be one of the judges likely to support their case. The judge in question, Pablo Pérez Tremps, was challenged on the grounds that he had done work for the Generalitat (the Catalan regional government) that was related to the statute reform. In reality, the work that Tremps did was contracted by the previous administration in Cataluña, although his contract continued after the elections that brought in the new three party government that subsequently promoted the statute reform. An earlier attempt to challenge him failed, but it now seems that the conservative members of the tribunal have decided to act as a bloc.

If they continue to act in this way then they can now impose objections to the statute on the rest of the tribunal, something they could not have done with the presence of Tremps. One option to prevent this that has being floated is for Tremps to resign his place on the tribunal, this would then allow the government to appoint someone else in his place. Obviously this has the side-effect of Tremps losing his prestigious position, and there is no guarantee that this will happen. If they declare parts of the Estatut to be unconstitutional then things get genuinely difficult. Changing the constitution in Spain is by no means a trivial process, apart from anything else it involves calling elections. So the government would have to choose between losing parts of a flagship reform, or risking their popularity in a popular vote around something that doesn't get people very excited in Albacete or Sevilla.

It’s ironic that it should be the politically most conservative sections of the political spectrum that are doing most to discredit the judicial institutions in Spain, with their attempts to try and achieve via these institutions what they have not been able to achieve via the popular vote, their determined attacks on the 11th March investigation are further evidence of this. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of this issue, sometimes you just feel like punishing people for bringing it back to life. We endured a long, and frankly very tedious, process of getting the reform approved. Groundhog Day was supposed to be last week, as far as the Estatut is concerned it seems that every day can be Groundhog Day.

1 comment:

Tom said...

It's worrying how much the PP are opposed to the freedom/independence of the judiciary. I detect distinct echoes from the US system under which Bush managed to 'win' his original presidential election.