The British weekly The Economist and the French newspaper Libération have warned of the "institutional mess" that Spain has stumbled into due to the confrontation between the two major parties, the PSOE and the PP, noting that it is the most serious in recent years. According to the UK publication, Spain is in its "biggest institutional mess" since Catalonia's declaration of independence in 2017. "The conflict that is going on in the Constitutional Court centres on who has the power to appoint judges". And although those calling it a coup are exaggerating, it notes that "they have a point". "No one is massing tanks or seizing radio stations. But the country is in its biggest institutional mess since Catalonia staged an illegal independence referendum in 2017," it asserts.
The British weekly recognizes that "Spain is not in danger of becoming a dictatorship", but there are risks: "As in America and elsewhere, its parties are playing constitutional hardball, fighting to control the court that determines the rules of the political game." It recalls in this regard that last year, The Economist's own EIU democracy index downgraded Spain to a "flawed democracy", mainly due to the long-running dispute centred on the judges. "Spain has fallen into a spiral of hyper-partisanship. Spaniards say they value politicians with a sense of state... So long as they demand it of their opponents and not from those their own side, little is likely to change," it says pessimistically.
In a similar vein, the French newspaper Libération, the major media forum of the French left, compared the institutional crisis that the PSOE and PP have opened in Spain to the declaration of independence of Catalonia approved by its Parliament in 2017, and even with the 1981 military coup attempt. "Since 1978 and the end of four decades of dictatorship in Spain, the country has gone through three major institutional crises jeopardizing its democratic framework. The first, in February 1981, when Lieutenant-Colonel Tejero emptied his magazine in the Congress of Deputies without however succeeding in a putsch which continues to burn in memory. The second, in September 2017, when the Catalan independentists voted unconstitutional laws through the Parliament in Barcelona as preparation for an independence which would last only a few minutes the following month, epilogue of an illegal referendum and punished by Madrid. The third would be now, when a high court prevents a law from being voted on in the Cortes, because the said law seeks to modify the rules governing that very court," it recounts.
The newspaper includes the analysis of constitutional law professor Javier García Fernández. "We are experiencing an exceptional period in which equilibirum and the separation of powers are no longer respected and popular sovereignty is trampled by a judicial power that strives to be hegemonic," he says. According to the newspaper, the unprecedented paralysis experienced in the Constitutional Court "weakens Spanish democracy" and the prognosis is worrying.
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