POLITICS

Congress to take government to court after minister’s committee no-show

Acting defense chief fails to turn up for hearing to explain his recent actions

Defense committee chief José María Barreda of the PSOE and the PP's María del Carmen Álvarez-Arenas at the hearing.
Defense committee chief José María Barreda of the PSOE and the PP's María del Carmen Álvarez-Arenas at the hearing.Uly Martín

As expected, when the Spanish Congress’s Defense Committee met on Thursday, the acting Defense Minister Pedro Morenés did not show up.

It was the first time that a member of government had deliberately ignored a parliamentary request to offer public explanations about his work.

The caretaker government of the Popular Party (PP) feels that it is under no obligation to submit to oversight by the new Congress that emerged from the inconclusive general election held on December 20.

The minister’s absence was variously described as “fraud,” “rebellion,” a “loss of common sense” and “a democratic abnormality”

The conservatives have already said that never in constitutional history had question time taken place in Congress before a new prime minister had taken his oath of office. And nearly three months after Spaniards went to the polls, there is still no clear candidate to hold that position.

Now, Congress will likely take the confrontation to the Constitutional Court, arguing that the executive branch is preventing the Legislature from doing its job properly, as oversight of government action is listed among its duties.

The Defense Committee wanted Morenés to explain his February trip to a NATO summit that made decisions regarding the fleet in the Indian Ocean. His absence on Thursday was variously described by other parties as “fraud,” “rebellion by someone who keeps talking about the law,” a “loss of common sense” and “a democratic abnormality.”

The Socialist Party has announced that it will push to take the issue to the Constitutional Court – a threat first issued earlier this week by House Speaker Patxi López.

Any Constitutional Court decision would not be handed down before the dissolution of parliament on May 2 – if no PM is elected before then

But in any event, a decision would not be handed down before the dissolution of parliament on May 2 and the calling of a new election, in the event that no new prime minister is found before then.

The PP speaker in Congress, Ricardo Tarno, defended the acting government’s decision not to submit to oversight. He also accused other political groups of seeking “television audience share” and being “disrespectful of the institutions.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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