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JUDICIARY

CGPJ elects liberal to preside panel on a conservative government’s watch

End of deadlock sees emergence of Justice Gonzalo Moliner, who has been critical of Rajoy administration

After several deadlocks over the past week, the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) on Tuesday elected Supreme Court Justice Gonzalo Moliner to preside the nation’s legal watchdog as well as the top court. It was a surprise choice that puts a liberal at the head of the nation’s highest judicial institutions with a conservative government in power.

Moliner, who has come out against Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s labor reform, was elected with 12 of the 20 votes on the panel — the minimum needed to approve the nomination.

An expert in labor law, the new chief justice replaces Carlos Dívar who was forced to resign in disgrace last month after complaints were filed against him for using close to 30,000 euros in public money to help pay for some 30 long weekend trips to Marbella and other destinations — journeys on which the judge appeared to mix business with pleasure.

This was the third attempt by the bitterly divided CGPJ, which is still trying to repair the public damage caused by the Dívar scandal, to elect a new leader.

Moliner, who was able to capture votes from some conservative members on the CGPJ panel, will now present himself as a consensus candidate — a factor that the legal watchdog has been unable to come up with for many years. It was also the first time that the CGPJ chief’s candidacy was brokered without direct interference from the political parties. In the past, the nominee’s name was known beforehand and usually agreed upon by the prime minister and the leader of the major opposition party.

At a news conference, Moliner played down the deadlocks, saying that the CGPJ “efforts over the last week bore fruit today [Tuesday].”

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