Renewal of the CGPJ in Spain: End of Era of Political Deadlock

Politics - June 28, 2024

Amidst a prolonged institutional crisis that has paralyzed the functioning of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) for over five years, an agreement has finally been reached between the Socialist Party and the Popular Party (PP) for the long-awaited renewal. This understanding marks the conclusion of a period marked by gridlock and uncertainty, promising to restore normalcy within the Spanish judiciary.

The General Council of the Judiciary is the constitutional collegiate and autonomous body, composed of judges and other legal experts, whose primary function is to govern the Judiciary. Among its responsibilities are appointments, promotions, and transfers of judges, as well as the inspection of the operation of courts. In addition, the CGPJ has the crucial task of demanding disciplinary responsibility from members of the judicial career, thus ensuring the integrity and independence of judges in the exercise of their jurisdictional function, as stipulated in Article 117 of the Spanish Constitution. Although its work is administrative and governmental, its decisions are subject to the control of legality by the contentious-administrative courts, thus guaranteeing transparency and adherence to the rule of law in all its actions.

Since the PP obtained an absolute majority in 2011, the renewal of the CGPJ has been a central issue on the Spanish political agenda, subject to political tensions and intermittent blockades. As stipulated, this renewal should have occurred in 2018; however, negotiations between parties were repeatedly frustrated by political disputes and strategic maneuvers seeking to influence judicial decisions through majority control with either conservative or progressive leanings, leading to a prolonged period of interim governance over the judiciary.

The last attempt at renewal prior to the current agreement dates back to 2013, during the PP’s majority rule in both the Congress and the Senate. Since then, successive attempts to reach consensus among major parties have repeatedly failed, leaving the CGPJ in a state where its final ratification will now rest with the Courts. It is important to highlight that the protracted renewal process of the CGPJ has not only affected the operational effectiveness of the judicial system but has also heightened perceptions of instability and compromised independence within the Spanish judiciary. Over the years, the accumulation of vacancies in key positions has raised uncertainty about the future of judicial decisions and undermined public trust in state institutions.

In contrast to the major parties, VOX has taken a firm and critical stance regarding the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary. The party, led by Santiago Abascal, has clearly voiced opposition to any agreement between the Popular Party and the PSOE that might compromise what they fundamentally consider: judicial independence. Antonio Fúster, VOX’s national spokesperson, has emphatically stated that the PP should “come to their senses” and avoid pacts that undermine the depoliticization of judicial institutions. In his words, “it is necessary to legally safeguard that political parties cease to interfere in all the bodies they can,” reflecting a stance in favor of measures that preserve judicial impartiality against political influences. VOX has expressed commitment to their agenda of depoliticizing public institutions despite potential challenges in the legislative process.

In conclusion, it is crucial to note the negative consequences of the prolonged lack of renewal of the CGPJ. This delay has exposed the judicial system to undue political influence, thereby impacting the integrity and independence of the judiciary. Prolonged interference in such a vital body as the CGPJ threatens to weaken the separation of powers, a fundamental principle of democratic rule of law. The politicization of judicial institutions not only erodes public trust in the impartiality of the judiciary but also compromises the CGPJ’s ability to administer justice equitably and transparently. Therefore, as we celebrate the finally reached agreement, it is essential to reflect on the lessons learned and ensure that such political blockages do not recur in the future, thereby safeguarding the integrity and efficiency of our judiciary.