JUDICIARY

Government takes control of Constitutional Court with new appointments

Three out of four new judges are conservatives ahead of series of crucial rulings for Popular Party

The renewal of the Constitutional Court (TC) bench announced on Friday, following a meeting earlier this week between Deputy Prime Minister Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría and the president of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), has, as expected, produced an ideological shift in Spain’s top legal body from progressive leftists to the right.

CGPJ president Gonzalo Moliner named two magistrates to the 12-member bench, while the government also provided two and will name a new president of the land's highest legal body in due course, the first such instance since 2004. The top court’s composition of seven progressive magistrates and five conservatives has now swung toward the interests of the conservative Popular Party government.

The Cabinet put forward Pedro González-Trevijano, a law professor and dean of the King Juan Carlos University, and High Court Judge Enrique López, both of a conservative inclination. The appointees replace progressive magistrates Manuel Aragón and Pablo Pérez Tremps, whose terms of office end Sunday.

The CGPJ legal watchdog earlier Friday selected José Antonio Xiol, a progressive and president of the Civil Law chamber of the Supreme Court, and Santiago Martínez Vares, a litigious judge in the Supreme Court’s administrative chamber.

The support of the majority of magistrates is a fundamental condition if some of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's policies -- now in the hands of the TC -- are to prosper. Among these are labor market and pension reforms, obstacles to the power of the regions to decide healthcare policy, Catalonia's independence drive and a new abortion law.

The reshuffled panel will also have the power to annul austerity measures imposed by the IMF, EU and ECB of up to 10 billion euros, in line with the decision of its Portuguese counterpart to ignore the diktats of the "troika."

The government is also expected to assume control of the CGPJ in September after it exercised its parliamentary majority to approve its overhaul.

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