Sunday, January 29

Eugenio Ribón wins the elections to the Madrid Bar Association after a tense campaign

The continuist candidate prevailed this Tuesday in the elections for dean of the Madrid Bar Association (ICAM). The list of Eugenio Ribón, a trusted man of the outgoing dean, José María Alonso, has been the most voted in the absence of completion of the recount of the votes by mail, followed by that of Juan Gonzalo Ospina, a candidate who also left the board of directors de Alonso, after a campaign between seven candidates with crosses of malpractice accusations that nevertheless ended, contrary to previous appointments, without incident on election night.

The tribulations of the Madrid Bar Association continue to be a very minor concern for Madrid lawyers, according to the participation data. Only 5,598 members cast their ballots in person, which represents 7.8% of the census, a figure very similar to the previous vote, in 2017. In absolute terms, participation fell 5.8 points because the number of registered also decreased with compared to five years ago. The absence of telematic voting probably did not help, nor did the strong downpour of the Madrid afternoon, nor the fact that it was only possible to vote in one place, a hotel on O’Donnell street.

“A quiet day is expected, but this is the Madrid Bar Association,” said an ICAM spokesman on the eve of the elections. Prevention, even if it was half joking, was not free. In the previous elections, in 2017, one of the candidates denounced a punch from a rival on election day. Further back, in 2012, the National Police had to intervene to quell the spirits in the recount, amid accusations of vote manipulation.

With close to 74,000 members and a budget of around 30 million euros, the deanship of the Madrid Bar Association, a rancid institution in an eminently positive sense -it was founded in 1596- is always a highly disputed position, despite the fact that the vast majority of lawyers from the Community of Madrid participate in a very minority in the election. It is rare that the figure approaches 10%. The general indifference is summed up by a senior lawyer from an international firm in the capital, who recalls that, from the outset, the institution does not have legislative capacity. “As lawyers, ICAM does not care […] 10 years ago the big law firms chartered buses to go to vote. Now, if I ask in mine, they hardly even know the candidates, ”she points out. The feeling spreads in the collective that the body is more a vehicle for the promotion of its members than a true support for the profession. The general annual fee for ICAM is 388.56 euros. In Spain, registration is mandatory to practice law.

Seven candidates for a bitter campaign

The seven candidates who fought to succeed veteran José María Alonso, who ran in 2017 after going through two prestigious law firms (Baker McKenzie and Garrigues), disagree with this feeling. Three of the applicants left its board of directors: Eugenio Ribón, finally victorious, who is indicated as a continuationist; Juan Gonzalo Ospina, thirty-something with ambitions, in favor of introducing ICAM to the TikTok social network, among other modernities; and Raúl Ochoa, who did not participate in debates and achieved a lower result.

Of the candidacies that did not come out of the previous board, the one of the mediatic Miguel Durán, former leader of ONCE and former director of Telecinco in the 90s – prosecuted for tax crimes during that stage and finally acquitted – and the last of the male candidates stood out. The list was completed by Beatriz Saura, Begoña Trigo – who boasted of having 13 lawyers from the ex officio office in her candidacy – and Ángeles Chinarro, the only option that was recognized as being on the left. Among the campaign issues was the entrenched problem of the precariousness of the office shift – all agreed on its poor financing –, transparency or the indifferent treatment of lawyers in the courts. Suspensions of visits due to illness, which magistrates do not always attend to, even with medical leave, were also the subject of discussion.

The disco and the roscón de Reyes

The friction and accusations were repeated throughout the campaign. At the last debate to seven – with just over 3,000 views on YouTube – Ochoa appeared to say that he was not going to participate. “Obscene audio recordings of electoral acts have been produced with third-party infiltrators to muddy and dirty the opponent and the process,” he charged, before leaving the room. The reference could be addressed to Durán, who had complained to the electoral commission because he had organized a party in a nightclub in which, according to his version, he was trying to capture the documentation of the attendees to vote by mail in the name of the.

Founded in a convent in the time of Felipe II, the ICAM maintains, after four centuries, a conservative bias. The person furthest to the left among the candidates was Ángeles Chinarro, from the Free Association of Lawyers, who has presented lists since 1993 but has never obtained enough votes to elect dean. Chinarro denounced in the last week that Ribón had sent roscones de reyes to numerous collegiates. He defended himself: it was just an attention to the “veterans”. The electoral commission resolved that the matter was not serious. In addition to the campaign, the term that is now ending has been fraught with controversy, such as the existence of a budget item under the heading “others”, without further details, that is around one million euros. Or the hiring and subsequent dismissal of the commentator Alfonso Merlos, for around 180,000 euros per year (VAT included), as communication director. Issues that have concerned the members very minimally, in view of the results.