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Exceptional. Although it was a step it had already taken in the past with respect to Catalonia, Spain's Constitutional Court has this Monday for the first time gone through with its threatened intervention in the legislative power in Madrid: the Congress of Deputies and the Senate. The court has decided to consummate its challenge to prime minister Pedro Sánchez and admit the urgent interim measures demanded by the opposition People's Party (PP) to stop the reform of the judiciary, in addition to rejecting the recusals requested for its two judges whose mandate has expired. In other words, the conservative majority of Spain's court of guarantees (by six votes in favour to five against) has decided to paralyze a reform that is attempting to end the deadlocked renewal of the court itself - when that reform was halfway through its parliamentary process.

The day began with the divided and politicized Constitutional Court facing a decision it had postponed from last Thursday, on whether to admit the PP appeal against the judicial reform, under which it called for urgent interim measures to stop the reform from completing its passage through the legislature. In the first place, the court decided to admit this appeal for hearing. Subsequently, a majority of the constitutional judges refused to address the recusal requests lodged by governing partners, the Socialists (PSOE) and alternative left Unidas Podemos, against the court president, Pedro González-Trevijano, and another conservative judge, Antonio Narváez; this decision thus became a de facto rejection of the recusals. In fact, both of the two judges took part in this vote, which ended with six votes in favour (the conservative bloc) and five against (the progressives). The plenum did accept the appearance of the coalition parties in the case, but, although sources from the Constitutional Court state that the progressives tried to prolong the meeting in order to postpone any decision, it ended up accepting the urgent interim measures requested by opposition leader Alberto Núñez-Feijóo's party.

What does this mean? Now the Senate must stop the parliamentary procedure that would have ended with a reform of the judiciary completing its legislative passage. Although the Unidas Podemos spokesperson Pablo Echenique called this Monday for Senators to disobey the court of guarantees and go through with the judicial reform, everything indicates that the upper chamber will comply with the court's pronouncement and put this reform on 'stand by'. One should recall that last week the speaker of Congress, Meritxell Batet, asserted that the Congress must obey the pronouncements of the Constitutional Court. It would be a surprise if her counterpart in the Senate, the socialist Ander Gil, did the opposite. It will now be necessary to see if this stops the entire wide-ranging reform package of the Penal Code - which includes the reforms of sedition and misuse of funds - or if, in order to approve all the other issues, amendments are presented that cut out only the areas referring to the judiciary.

The judiciary's governing body, due to meet

It is not just the Constitutional Court. The deadlock in Spanish judicial renewal, which has festered and become more politicized for four years, also divides and affects the governing body of judicial power, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ). In fact, the court's decision comes when there are less than 24 hours left for the Council to meet to vote itself on the appointment of the two judges of the Constitutional Court that are its responsibility to designate. This is a meeting requested by the conservative side of the Spanish judicial leadership in order to try to convince the rest of the members to send the progressive judge Pablo Lucas to the court of guarantees, instead of the preferred option of the PSOE, José Manuel Bandrés. If the meeting ends with an agreement, the Constitutional Court will be renewed. In other words: the court has deliberated this Monday on an appeal from the PP with a conservative majority, when it is possible that in the coming days it will have a progressive majority.