Two progressive candidates for the presidency of the Constitutional Court: the first litmus test of the new court

After the inauguration of the new four magistrates of the Constitutional Court (TC) this Monday, the highest court of constitutional guarantees still has to pass a litmus test: elect its new president for the next two and a half years; a crucial role in deciding which issues are discussed first, for example.

The novelty on this occasion is that for the presidency there are two candidates from the same ideological sector, the progressivewhich has now recovered the majority lost in 2013. With the addition this Monday of Juan Carlos Field and Laura Diez, appointed by the Executive; and of Maria Luisa Segoviano Y Cesar Tolosaappointed by the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), the progressives have seven votes against four for the conservatives; and with these figures they have to decide who will occupy the presidency.

The interim president, Ricardo Enriquez— he is the oldest magistrate and therefore the one who is responsible for occupying that temporary position–, has convened a plenary session at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday so that the magistrates choose their new president in a secret vote that requires an absolute majority and, in case it is necessary to repeat it, a simple majority.

Balaguer or Count-Pumpido

The two candidacies for the presidency of the TC are those of the magistrate Maria Luisa BalaguerProfessor of Constitutional Law, and Candid Count-Pumpido, former State Attorney General in the José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero period (2004-2011).

The progressive bloc would like to bring a single candidacy to the plenary session, but, for now, the nominations for both Conde-Pumpido and Balaguer remain firm.

The tradition in the Constitutional Court is that the presidency is held by a magistrate from the majority bloc and the vice-presidency, one from the minority sector. In fact, Pedro González-Trevijano and Juan Antonio Xiolwho said goodbye to the TC on Monday, held the presidency and vice-presidency respectively, the first being from the conservative sector and the second from the progressive.

This Tuesday, after the solemn act of renewal in the Constitutional, the progressives have met informally to take positions regarding the ‘program’ of the two candidates.

For Balaguer, a renowned feminist, it is important that the Constitutional Court manages to communicate effectively to Spanish society about its most delicate sentences and chooses to call press conferences regularly. She also advocates for gender perspective in Justice.

The new magistrate has manifested in the same vein Maria Luisa Segoviano, recently retired from the Supreme Court and who was the first woman to become president of a Chamber of the High Court. Segoviano is expected to vote in favor of Balaguer.

The disputed vote of Segoviano

The four conservative magistrates will predictably give their support to María Luisa Balaguer, in a clear gesture of rejection of Cándido Conde-Pumpido for having been State Attorney General in a socialist government.

Also counting on his own vote and if he received that of María Luisa Segoviano, Balaguer could win the presidency, since he would obtain six votes compared to the five that Conde-Pumpido could add, who predictably has the support of Juan Carlos Campo and Laura Díez, in addition to that of Ramón Sáez and Inmaculada Montalbán; all of them, from the progressive bloc.

According to the unwritten rules that have governed the TC since its creation, the presidency and vice-presidency are decided between the magistrates who are in the last third of their mandate, which is nine years. Both Balaguer and Conde-Pumpido are in this situation. The vice presidency, except for surprises, will fall to Ricardo Enríquez.

With the renewal of a third of its magistrates and its presidency, the Constitutional Court will try to recover from one of the most acute crises of its existence, after the conservative majority stopped a legislative process for the first time in history in the face of astonishment of the progressives, who in their individual votes have come to say that the PP has used the TC politically. The gap between the two sectors is more pronounced than ever.

In this sense, Maria Luisa Segoviano He stated a few days ago in an interview in zero wave that “it is important to iron out differences between the members that make up the court, try to bring positions closer together, be able at a certain moment to calm things down and soften” and he has alluded to the “empathy” that the new president of the TC must have to achieve consensus.

These statements by the new magistrate have been interpreted as tacit support for Maria Luisa Balaguerknown for its attempts to reach consensus in plenary sessions.

Former Justice Minister Juan Carlos Campo could opt for Conde-Pumpido. Both coincided in the stage of Rodríguez Zapatero: the first was Secretary of State for Justice while the second was in charge of the State Attorney General’s Office.

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