6 September 2021

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable. 

– Christopher Howse: ‘A Pilgrim in Spain

Cosas de España/Galiza

The Spanish judicial system . . . The writer of the article below proposes structural changes to an appointments system which entrenches right-of-centre judges. I imagine that – however logical/reasonable – it has no chance of being implemented.

After cancellation last year and postponement this year, Valencia’s phenomenal ninots returned to the streets last week. Sadly, on the eve of judgement day, they were hit by heavy storms, leaving some of them damaged.

With a total absence of logic, folk are already queuing to buy Xmas lottery tickets at Spain’s ‘luckiest’ outlets. Doubtless, some will be seeking tickets with certain numbers in them, believing these to be lucky too.

Commendably, a new law will restrict the advertising of gambling bus¡nesses to sports fans. See here on this. This is a torpedo on the finances of several football teams and may affect their ability to recruit and maintain the right players. Probably a good thing, if it contributes to a salutary change in the mad world of transfer fees. Unless it just leads to higher ticket prices.

I see our (excellent) museum-and-art-gallery had a record number of visitors in August. The unseasonal rain might just have had something to do with this. It’s an ill wind . . .

I also see Pontevedra is again included in this year’s Vuelta de España bike race. I won’t be going down to see it, as there’s nothing less exciting than having a large group of cyclists flash by you in under a second. It’s sometimes brilliant on the TV but it ain’t my idea of a spectator sport.

Europe

Italy now has the highest total Covid death per million in Western Europe  – 2,146. This compares with the UK’s 1,950 and the USA’s 1,999. In Eastern Europe/the Balkans, the numbers are also high:-

Hungary 3,122

Bosnia & Herzegovenia 3,028

North Macedonia 2,911

Czechia 2,833

Bulgaria 2,776

Slovakia 2,297

Slovenia 2,134

Croatia 2,054

Poland 1,994

Romania 1,817

The Way of the World

Four minutes into one of the world’s most contested World Cup football matches – Argentina v Brazil –  health officials entered the field with the intention of deporting 3 of Argentina’s players. These, it was claimed, had lied about not being in the UK within 14 days of arriving in Brazil. After an hour and a half’s fruitless ‘discussion’, the match was abandoned, leaving the crowd rather unhappy. The next step? . . . Fifa is sure to investigate the incident. It could order either side to forfeit the match or that it’s replayed in a neutral country.

Social Media

The UK government is backing an aggressive ad campaign which will accuse Facebook of ‘blindsiding’ the police in their investigations into child sex abuse. This is aimed at winning over public opinion against end-to-end encryption on Whatsapp and other platforms. 

English

Rhotacism/rotacism is the pronunciation of the letter R as a W. It’s usually a speech defect but can be a feature of a local dialect.  A memorable example was given by Pilate in The Life of Brian: ‘Welease Woderick. He’s a wobber and a wapist!’.  Reader sp asks whether it exists anywhere outside England, where it can be heard in ‘Geordie’ of the  North East and in East London’ Estuary English. It turns out that Rs are difficult for toddlers in many languages – Swedish tots say yed instead of ‘red’, for example. In the USA, rhotacism can be found as a dialect feature in parts of Massachusetts, just west and northwest of Boston. It’s said to be more common among people whose native language has a trilled R. For example, Spanish. But I can’t recall ever hearing it here.

Spanish

A new phrase for me: Tener mala pata – Literally ‘To  have a bad leg/paw’ but figuratively ‘To have bad luck.’ So, !Que male pata! ‘What bad luck!’ The expression comes from the belief that the paw of an animal (usually a rabbit or a hare) produces good luck. But, if the effect of the paw is not good luck, we speak of “having a bad paw”.

But . . . Una malapata: RAE: Una persona sin gracia, patoso*. A graceless, clumsy person.

* Walks like a duck?

Finally  . . .

I mentioned dyslexia yesterday. In a paean of praise to the 70s, a UK columnist has claimed that, as of back then: The middle class hadn’t discovered dyslexia as an excuse for their offspring’s stupidity. He further claimed that: Neither had the working class discovered ADHD to explain the fact that their son was a menace. Which will certainly ruffle a lot of feathers. Though there is surely at least a grain of truth there.

Note: If you’ve landed here looking for info on Galicia or Pontevedra, try here.

THE ARTICLE  

How to get out of the impasse in the General Council of the Judiciary: Jesús Quijano, Octavio Granado, Former Member of Parliament and Secretary General of the PSOE of Castilla y León.

Spanish democracy has a pending issue with the judiciary. Unlike in other democratisation processes, in the Spanish Transition the role of the judiciary was passive and almost irrelevant, limited, although perhaps not insignificant, to not hindering the measures applied by the Executive. There were no prosecutions against the economic corruption of the regime, nor against the excesses of members of the state security forces. With this balance sheet, it could be argued that the democratisation of institutions had not reached the judiciary. An important part of public opinion considers judges to be conservative and to belong to a caste that disdains the majority of citizens. Some on the left also tend to think that judges are indulgent towards financial institutions or speculation.

Successive elections of the members of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ), the governing body of the judiciary according to the Constitution, have not improved its democratic presentation. Firstly, the different political groups have only aspired to pure and simple control of the Council, with some regrettable episodes, such as those very revealing statements by a spokesperson of the Popular Party that dynamited an agreed renewal of the Council.

The most representative associations of judges have on occasions participated in a game of alliances with the parties to which they are closest, which has made them appear more as distributors or facilitators of perks between clients than as forums for reflection.

When the organisation of the general electoral system was agreed during the Transition, a structure of provincial constituencies was conceived, with proportional voting only theoretically in Congress (most provinces have such a small number of deputies that general proportionality is not achieved) and a majority in the Senate. Such a structure produces a repeated effect in Spain: with the same percentage of votes, the right obtains larger majorities than the left. The alternation of power often allows the right wing to obtain the majorities required by article 122.3 in its legislatures of government and to obtain agreed appointments; the majorities of the left do not reach the stipulated three-fifths, and in them the right wing usually obstructs the renewal of the CGPJ, in order to maintain a Council that responds to past majorities, and stretches its functions by approving the latest appointments with legitimacy but with diminishing legality, a situation in which we find ourselves.

The constitutional wording is not designed to prevent the majorities provided for from being reached, and in any case it is very difficult to find a reasonable solution if the aim is to prevent the appointment of the CGPJ. The right is confident that the left, when political alternation takes place, will prefer any Council to the absence of the same, and the degradation will not continue. That would be back to square one.

That being the case, perhaps it is time to take power away from the government and the conservative opposition, and start the election of the members of the General Council of the Judiciary by the free and secret election of judges and magistrates, who elect 12 members of the Council by voting for four each (the same as the Constitution assigns to Congress and the Senate). Voting for four people guarantees a plurality of nominations and the representation of judges of all opinions, not a majority defined by conservative positions. Once these 12 members are known, Congress and the Senate must make their nominations. If the constitutionally required majority is not reached, a vote will be taken in which each deputy and senator will vote for a single name from the list of 12 candidates next in votes to those elected in the judicial vote. The four most voted in the Congress shall be proposed by this House, and then the Senate shall hold its single-name vote among the next 12 by the same procedure. The precautions of qualified majority established by the Constitutional Court in its 1986 ruling on the appeal against the reform of the system for electing judicial members of the CGPJ by Parliament would be materially met in this formula.

In practice, with such a system, the objections of the European institutions would be without argument, since the representation of judges and magistrates would be sufficiently assured, and governmental or partisan control of appointments would be much less. As for the composition of the resulting CGPJ, this procedure would not allow appointments to be used as a reward for previous judicial favours, nor as a revolving door for people from other institutions.

Finally, a review of the powers of the CGPJ with regard to appointments to judicial posts and court presidencies, and the professional promotion of judges and magistrates, would surely help to reduce the political appetite for control over the composition of the CGPJ. A procedure combining free competition from interested parties who meet the required criteria and the application of an objective scale of merit, ability and seniority, replacing other methods of quotas and exchanges based on ideological or corporate affiliation, could fulfil this function with a healthy standard of neutrality.

Both aspects should therefore be considered simultaneously: the system for electing the members of the CGPJ and its attributions as the governing body of judges. Perhaps then neither the blockades nor the aspirations for control would be so contumacious.

3 comments

  1. Thanks for doing that bit of research. Continuing with the Michael Palin/ Pilate theme, we have recently acquired a cat. I have named him Biggus Whiskus.

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  2. I grew up in Boston, but I don’t remember rotacism as a feature in some people’s speech. I, however, did suffer from it in my childhood. Coming from a trilled r at home, it was difficult for me to pronounce the English r. “Rural” became “wuwal.”

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