The struggle between the People's Party (PP) and the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) to unblock the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) enters a new phase. As El País reported on Wednesday and the PP's communications secretary, Pablo Montesinos, confirmed, the leading opposition party has set a new condition for the renovation of the judges' governing body: leaving it until after the Catalan elections on 14 February and an explicit commitment to reject a pardon for political prisoners. A condition that the PSOE has rejected. The socialist spokesperson in Congress, Adriana Lastra, has accused the People's Party of making an "excuse" and asking the Ministry of Justice to "pervert the course of justice". "They know that any person deprived of liberty has the right to request a pardon [...]. Let's leave it as part of citizens' rights," she added at a press conference from Congress.
The PSOE is keeping up the pressure on the PP. Next Tuesday, the plenary will debate the bill proposoed by Unidas Podemos to limit the functions of the CGPJ until it is renewed. The PP considers this reform an "attack on the independence" of the judges' governing body. The spokesperson of the Popular Party in Congress, Cuca Gamarra, has assured that it would be a "scandal" if the Spanish government were to grant a pardon to political prisoners, even though she has not wanted to specify whether this is a condition for unblocking the renewal of the CGPJ. Montesinos did, however, in an interview with TVE, in which he said it would not help towards an agreement.
The Spanish government maintains that the pact is almost finished, as the Minister of Justice, Juan Carlos Campo, advanced last week, but that the only thing which is missing is the final endorsement of the leader of the PP, Pablo Casado. "I say the same: the agreement is practically done, not to say that it is done. The problem is the attitude of the PP", said the government spokesperson, María Jesús Montero, calling on the PP to publicly acknowledge the situation. "Every day there is a different spokesperson with a different excuse for not promoting an essential and necessary reform," she added.
Asked whether a pardon for political prisoners could be granted before the Catalan elections on 14 February - a possibility that would complicate the Catalan Socialist Party's campaign - Montero insisted that the Spanish government "does not assess judicial investigations or sentences" and that the reports have to take their course. It is expected that just this week the Prosecutor's Office will make a decision in this regard. All the parties to the trial have to make a mandatory report that will be disseminated by the Supreme Court. The Cabinet, however, can take a decision against the judges criteria. In this case, however, it would not be a full but a partial pardon.
The Moncloa has two mechanisms on the table for reducing the prison sentence of political prisoners. Firstly, a reform of the crime of sedition which is becoming increasingly difficult, since despite Campo's commitment to take it to the Council of Ministers before the end of the year, the Spanish executive is not making any great progress in this respect, despite pressure from Unidas Podemos. The second, the pardon, after Campo announced in September that he would start processing the petitions that had arrived. It thus rules out the amnesty that the Catalan independence movement claims. Just this Wednesday JxCat, ERC and CUP passed a motion in the Catalan Parliament asking the Spanish Parliament to pass an amnesty law. Lastra has already rejected this as unconstitutional.