Conservative PP passes Senate reform to delay amnesty bill
Catalan government spokesperson stresses importance of reviewing law "down to the millimetre"
The Spanish Senate, where the conservative People's Party (PP) holds an absolute majority, approved a reform of the chamber's rules on Tuesday to delay the processing of the amnesty law agreed in recent days by the the Socialists and Catalan pro-independence parties Junts and Esquerra Republicana (ERC).
The reform will change the rules for urgent bills. Currently, the Senate has 20 calendar days to consider such bills, but the reform will allow the chamber to decide on a case-by-case basis whether a bill requires urgent processing, potentially prolonging and hindering the legislative process.
If the bill is deemed non-urgent, the Senate has two months to act on it. However, since January does not count as a working month, it would take an additional month for the bill to be submitted back to Congress, potentially delaying the approval of the amnesty bill until March.
According to the PP, the new regulation improves the "democratic quality" of the chamber.
Speaking during the debate on the reform, Socialist senator Francisco Manuel Fajardo argued that the reform was a "legal fraud" which was not "justified". "It is a disgrace for this Senate", he declared, before asking the conservatives to "abandon their anger."
Law's text will be key
The law was submitted in Congress by the Socialists on Monday. It was expected that the other parties supporting Pedro Sánchez's bid to be reelected as PM would also sign it, but this was not the case.
Catalan pro-independence party Esquerra Republicana argued that they did not put their names to the bill as they were given very little time to review its final content.
The spokeswoman for the Catalan government, Patrícia Plaja, stressed the importance of reviewing the text thoroughly, "down to the millimeter," so that there are no legal loopholes and everyone that should benefit from an amnesty is included.
Acting spokesperson of the Spanish government, Isabel Rodríguez, said the amnesty law text was "fully constitutional" and argued that, despite technical discussions that still exist with ERC, the text will be approved. She asked citizens to "trust" Pedro Sánchez's executive.
Socialist congressional spokesperson Patxi López admitted that the law is a "risky instrument" that "creates confusion for many people," but assured that it is "the only solution".
Spain's presidency minister, Félix Bolaños, said it was "impossible" for the amnesty law to come into force this year, but it will "with all certainty" next year, in 2024.
Police protection for Puigdemont
Bolaños also confirmed that Spain's interior ministry will process the request for former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont to have official police protection in Brussels, where he has lived in exile since the aftermath of the 2017 independence referendum.
"No one questions the safety of people, no matter how many ideological differences there may be," Bolaños told Rac1 radio.
Catalonia's interior minister, Joan Ignasi Elena, has sent a letter to his Spanish counterpart, Fernando Grande-Marlaska, to ask him again to authorize the police protection.
A highly controversial law
Opposition parties such as PP and far-right Vox have expressed their opposition to the amnesty law.
PP's General Secretary Cuca Gamarra said the text of the amnesty bill was "dictated by its own criminals," referring to the pro-independence parties.
She said the only purpose of the law is Pedro Sanchez's interest in continuing as Prime Minister in what will be the "most turbulent legislature of our democracy."
María Elisa García Fuster, a Vox parliamentarian in Catalonia, called on civil society to "rebel" and demonstrate against the amnesty bill.
"Spain will not be defended from the sofa, we must all go to the streets, raise our voices and be heard in Moncloa [the PM's official residency]," she said.
Vox confirmed on Tuesday that they have filed a complaint against the amnesty law with Spain's Supreme Court.
A long road to approval
The controversial amnesty law presented on Monday in Congress by the Socialists has provoked many reactions. The bill will pardon the "criminal, administrative and accounting responsibility" of all those who have committed crimes related to the Catalan independence push over the past ten years.
When the rule comes into effect, it will benefit the pro-independence forces involved at all levels, from the highest involvement to the lowest. As a result, Esquerra Republicana leader Oriol Junqueras will no longer be barred from holding public office, and former Catalan president Carles Puigdemont will be able to return to Spain without having to go through a trial.
However, the approval of the law could take months, as it can be delayed in the Senate by the PP and then blocked by the Constitutional Court.