A large majority of Congress voted in favor this Thursday that the reform of the Penal Code to replace the crime of sedition with that of aggravated public disorder begins its parliamentary process with 187 votes in favor, 155 against and 6 abstentions. The plenary session for taking the proposal into consideration has developed without surprises, despite the fact that the PP had forced the format of voting by appeal so that each deputy had to pronounce the meaning of their vote out loud.
Socialist barons close ranks with Sánchez after calls for Feijóo’s rebellion
In an eternal plenary session that began at 9 in the morning with the budget debate and that continued in the afternoon with the processing of taxes on banks and electricity companies, the item on the agenda regarding the repeal of sedition was night owl and bustling. The interruptions from the right-wing bench to the spokesmen for the PSOE and Unidas Podemos were constant, with an intense exchange of reproaches between the Government and the opposition from the speaker’s rostrum.
“You, to your insults. Leave the politics to us. With you confrontation and past, with us coexistence and future”, the socialist deputy Francisco Aranda opened the debate. He was followed by Jaume Asens, a deputy from United We Can, the other group proposing the reform. “It is a relic of the past filled with the dust of a world that no longer exists. It is a pre-constitutional anomaly, a rule of law cannot allow a crime like this, ”he defended.
The PP decided that the person in charge of defending its position against the reform would be its spokesperson, Cuca Gamarra, who described the end of the sedition as a “shameful initiative” that, in his opinion, only pursues one objective: “It is the erasure of what happened between September and October 2017 in Catalonia. Pardons, sedition, embezzlement. The goal is amnesty and self-determination. It is a tailor-made suit for the seditious. No one had ever dared so much, ”she said.
For his part, the ERC spokesman in Congress, Gabriel Rufián, defended that the reform “is not a concession to ERC, it is not a concession to the independence movement. What’s more: I wish it were. This is a concession to democracy. It is a concession to their democracy so that they stop making a fool of themselves in Europe,” he said before taking stock of the weight of his group in the legislature: “Nine people sleep at home and not in a cell thanks to our vote and we have taken away the toy from fascist judges. We are not responsible for the decisions of the PSOE, but for its rectifications”.
The reform of the Penal Code that today begins its processing is, in reality, the concretion of some of the commitments reached by the PSOE and ERC at the dialogue table around the so-called “removal of the Catalan conflict from justice”. Those of Sánchez and Aragonés had been working on a measure for months that the President of the Government himself confirmed just two weeks ago under the argument that his Executive is working to solve the problem that he inherited from the PP with Catalonia. “We are building coexistence. I invite people to take a walk through Catalonia and compare it with 2017. Do we prefer 2017 or 2022? ”, he asked himself in an interview on laSexta. Moncloa has seasoned its defense of the repeal of the crime of sedition by comparing it to other European regulatory frameworks. “It is about modernizing, standardizing the penal code with regard to the crime of sedition,” the president also said.
The president of the Generalitat, Pere Aragonés, defended the replacement of the crime of sedition by that of aggravated public disorder, describing it as “an essential step in removing the judicial system. We continue working to completely end the repression and be able to vote in a referendum. To resolve the political conflict and freedom,” he said. However, the president pointed out that, in his opinion, more legal changes must be made to achieve complete de-judicialization, referring to the reform of the crime of embezzlement that ERC plans to address during the parliamentary process of the reform of the Penal Code and through amendments . Something that also negotiates directly with the PSOE.
ERC does not lose hope in touching embezzlement
The Republicans have always defended returning to the wording prior to the last reform of the PP of the criminal type of embezzlement and voices arose from the Government that left the door open to review this issue throughout the parliamentary process. Today President Pedro Sánchez has avoided closing that door. “We are going to see the parliamentary process”, he responded when leaving the plenary session after being asked if he intends to support a change in the crime of embezzlement.
But the truth is that the climate has changed in recent weeks after criticism from a large part of the socialists’ parliamentary partners, including part of Unidas Podemos, which has even generated an internal debate within the Executive because it is a crime clearly linked to cases of political corruption. Even so, Moncloa has not yet revealed whether or not he will support ERC’s intention to deal with this matter in the parliamentary process, something for which the Republicans have not yet lost hope. According to Republican sources, the negotiation on economic crime continues through the usual channels of discretion.
The importance that the embezzlement reform has for ERC is maximum, since the judicial future of about thirty senior officials and officials who are awaiting trial for events related to the process depends on it. If the objective is de-judicialization, the crime of embezzlement is much more effective than that of sedition, despite the fact that Republican voices assume that it must be a “surgical reform” so as not to have unexpected effects. For this reason and despite the complications that this crime has, in Esquerra they take it for granted that they will introduce an amendment on embezzlement and that they will try to reach an agreement in the coming weeks.
The excuse of the PP to blow up the bridges
That reform that today begins to be processed in Congress has as its main point the repeal of the crime of sedition and the concretion of a new criminal type, that of aggravated public disorder. “The proposal contemplates homologating the penalties and renaming the type so that it passes to aggravated public disorder, like other democracies to which Spain wants to be equated. What the independence movement wants is amnesty, something that this government is not going to accept,” explained Pedro Sánchez.
Despite the criticism from the right, the reform of the Penal Code announced by the Government would not imply, for the moment, the immediate rehabilitation of the ERC leader, Oriol Junqueras, nor does it accelerate the eventual return of the former president of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont. And here precisely the crime of embezzlement plays a key role, for which the vice president is also convicted and for which Puigdemont is claimed by the Spanish Justice.
In any case, this commitment of the Government with ERC to carry out the sedition reform became a few weeks ago the last burning nail of the PP to once again break off any type of negotiation with the Government. At the last moment, and after pressure from some popular territorial leaders such as Isabel Díaz Ayuso, Alberto Núñez Feijóo ordered the bridges to be blown up on the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary, which was practically completed. “Someone lied to us in the negotiations of the Judiciary,” he justified. The opposition leader has promised in recent days that he will recover the crime of sedition in the same terms that existed until now if he becomes president of the Government.
In today’s plenary session, the PP has forced the deputies to vote one by one and by individual appeal to admit the repeal of the crime of sedition for processing. “That the deputies have to personally say if we are in favor or against repealing the crime of sedition, weakening the rule of law, handing over the Penal Code to those who committed crimes and were sentenced based on that Code Criminal”, defended the popular spokesperson, Cuca Gamarra.