The European press has not treated Pedro Sánchez particularly well since his rebuff from the Constitutional Court and the alignment of the European Commission with the judicial body. The pronouncement from Brussels - which acted with little respect for the Spanish government and reproached it for not having consulted the interested parties, including the judiciary, when carrying out the part of his fast-track reform of the Penal Code which pertained to the senior Spanish court - has led to some severe remarks. Particularly notable is what was said by Die Zeit, probably the German newspaper with most prestige after the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which declares with an unusual bluntness that Spain is immersed in a deep institutional crisis, while the powerful RND media group, close to Germany's Social Democrats, speaks openly of a systemic crisis in Spain and gives as an example the fact that conservative and progressive magistrates hold separate meetings as if they were not members of a body as important as the Constitutional Court, but rather a political debating club.
There are other examples, but they do not change the perception that has been created and the mire in which the separation of powers in Spain seems to have been placed. The Sánchez government, taken aback by the label that Brussels has applied to it, is seeking to return the argument to the domestic field of play. It has useful cards that it can play, the most important being the blockade carried out by the People's Party for the entire duration of the legislature against the renewal of the judicial bodies, first and foremost the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) and later the Constitutional Court. But in politics, as in other spheres of life, the way that things are done is important and it is not advisable to enter through the back door and turn everything upside down. And, moreover, to do so believing that no one will notice.
There are parliamentary mechanisms to follow and the correct path was not via a few tacked-on amendments. That path could be, as the government would like, a legislative proposal that will have a parliamentary process lasting around a month, assuming that there will be no startled reactions of the type that, in Spain, can never be ruled out. We have already seen so many things that nothing is impossible. The downside is - and this has already been appreciated by the PSOE in its actions till now - that the government wanted to start the year unburdened by conflictive issues and, upon returning from the Reis holiday, able to dedicate itself exclusively to the campaign for the municipal elections. And this is already certain to be impossible because the subject cannot be closed until February.
But it is certainly worth it for the government to impose the renewal of the Constitutional Court, even if it ruffles more feathers than originally planned, for two reasons. First, the need for authority and to avoid returning to the starting gate, having been discredited by everyone. Secondly, because some very important laws, passed by this government, are awaiting judgment in the Constitutional Court, and only a new Court is a guarantee that they will not remain stuck for an indefinite period of time, which would always be until the arrival of a new executive. This is something that the PSOE-Unidas Podemos government cannot afford, because it would dismantle part of the parliamentary work they have got through which has been carried forward with a progressive majority. All of this legislation has a strong social component, such as the appeal presented in 2010 against the abortion law promoted by the Zapatero government, or the most recent one against the euthanasia law. But there is also the education law, the LOMLOE, also known as the Celaá law, since she was the minister who got it approved.
It is this calendar, and the blockade by the PP, that led the PSOE to modify the Constitutional Court law, which imposes the need for supermajorities for the renewal of its members, with the government now intending to reduce these to simple majorities. That is the justification for this unprecedented confrontation which is the type of thing that only happens in a state accustomed to breaching the rules to achieve its goals.