Always the independence movement. Spanish opposition leader and People's Party (PP) president, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, has once again played his favourite card to attack the Spanish government in the midst of the institutional crisis that was sparked by the decision of the Constitutional Court on Monday. And at the heart of the crisis, the fact that the judicial organ decided to admit the interim injunction demanded by the PP itself to freeze the measures on judicial power reform included in the government's current Penal Code reform. The court's decision brought to a halt parliamentary debate on one of the star legislative measures of the Pedro Sánchez executive, and has generated a wave of reactions from members of governing partners PSOE and Unidas Podemos, who have been severely critical of the judges and the PP. In the midst of the controversy, Feijóo appeared this Tuesday to explain his position, and his speech made frequent references to the agreements between the Spanish PM and the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (ERC).
"I call on Sánchez to stop the concessions to the independence movement", he demanded, referring to the reform of the Penal Code, which among its contents includes, as the result of a PSOE-ERC deal, the repeal of the crime of sedition and the modification of misuse of funds, two crimes for which the pro-independence political prisoners were sentenced. The fact that the main stumbling block, and the one which the Court pounced on to open the institutional crisis, is in fact the reform which would end the deadlocked renewal of the judicial organ itself did not seem to matter to Feijóo. The PP leader also asserted that Spain does not deserve to be governed in a way that takes into account "the interests of those who want to destroy it", and he even gave his own peculiar criticism of Sánchez's decision to negotiate with the Catalan sovereignists to try put the independence process to sleep. "The prime minister says that there is no other route or exit. According to this reasoning, there would also be no other way than to agree with those who staged a coup d'état on 23-F," he pointed out, in reference to the 1981 military coup attempt in Spain.
"The Court guarantees parliamentary debate"
Beyond his derision for independentism, Feijóo also specifically referred to the judicial body's decision to stop the parliamentary debate on the reform of the Penal Code. While this is the version understood by the left and the Spanish government parties, the PP sees it completely the other way round. "Has the Court prevented the Parliament from voting? No. Has the Court stolen parliamentary debate? No. It has come to guarantee it," he stated. To justify himself, the conservative leader asserted that the Constitutional Court's decision means only that the vote must be "in accordance" with the Constitution and, therefore, it is only an "issue of form" that does not affect the substance of the matter.
The PP leader also took the opportunity to criticize Sánchez, accusing him of having decided to reform the Penal Code with the sole intention of satisfying the wishes of the independence movement and, thus, obtaining the support of ERC during the rest of this legislature. He also lashed out at members of the Spanish government for their "unprecedented verbal escalation" against the decision of the Constitutional Court, and showed his exasperation at the fact that the PM "has made it newsworthy" that he will abide by the court ruling. "Has the possibility of not doing so passed through the head of any politician in Spain?" he asked. "No matter how 'Sánchez' you are, you cannot ignore the laws, the Constitution and democracy," he warned, adding that such an attitude had only been seen in the "most extreme" populism, referring to the independence movement. The barb became clear when he accused Sánchez not only of giving in to the pro-independence parties, but also of "copying their style of politics".
Feijóo: "Major decisions of state should be agreed between the current governing party and the party that will govern in the next legislature"
However, despite his verbal offensive against the Spanish prime minister, Feijóo had time to make him an offer, to find a "way out", agreed on a bipartisan basis, from the institutional crisis in which Spain is immersed: "Sánchez needs to renounce the hurried modification of the Penal Code, carried out without the appropriate studies. He needs to define an illegal referendum as a crime, maintain the crimes of sedition and misuse of funds, and renounce controlling the judges." A long list of claims that Feijóo asserts are indispensable if the Spanish PM wanted to leave behind his alliance with ERC and accept the outstretched hand of the PP, "centred and with a sense of state". "As long as he is the prime minister he will have me as an ally," said the conservative leader. "I am not prepared for the messes that Sánchez gets us into to always be the messes of the Spanish people."