A “posh hippie” and a bunker mentality in Spain
A judge’s shelving of the case against individuals accused of organising an attack on democracy in the recent September 25 protest has sparked political outrage. It has also shown how much the government is on the defensive.
By Guy Hedgecoe
Those who organised the September 25 protest outside Congress, which saw bloody scenes and dozens of arrests, say they never intended to storm the parliament building and undermine Spain’s democracy. On Thursday, a High Court judge, Santiago Pedraz, accepted the word of the eight people he was investigating on these charges and shelved the case against them.
But even though the eight “25-S” figureheads may not have been trying to rattle Spain’s sometimes creaky democratic edifice, unwittingly, that is exactly what they have done.
Respect for the institutions of state and the boundary separating them are often flimsy and they looked almost non-existent when the governing Partido Popular’s (PP) spokesman Rafael Hernando reacted to Pedraz’s ruling by accusing the magistrate of acting like a “posh hippie” (please let me know if there are better translations of pijo ácrata).
Several other members of the PP joined Hernando in expressing outrage. “Defending Congress means defending freedom and that is not the fruit of some whim, but rather it means defending national sovereignty,” said President of Congress Jesús Posada. Posada made his comments after he and Interior Minister Jorge Fernández had decorated several police officers stationed round the Congress building, in what was seen as a reward for their performance last week.
Interestingly, it wasn’t just the shelving of the case that annoyed these politicians (and others, including representatives of the Socialist Party and UPyD), but the wording of Pedraz’s summing up, in which he criticised the government and police’s handling of the situation.
“It is not possible to prohibit the exalting or defence of ideas or doctrines, however much these might be distanced from or put in question the constitutional framework,” noted Pedraz. “And much less, to prohibit the expression of subjective opinions on historical or contemporary events, especially given the perceived decline of the so-called political class.”
Pedraz may have overstretched his brief in deciding to describe Spain’s politicians in such unflattering light and any attempt to do so by a judge is likely to cause upset. But it’s reassuring to see that at least one senior member of the judiciary has a firm grip on the mindset of ordinary Spaniards.
But the problem now is that the worsening social unrest in Spain threatens to become a more institutional conflict whereby the government and PP publically state their mistrust not just of what they claim are a radical minority on the street, but also of sectors of the judiciary who don’t agree with them.
The PP can point to a handsome majority in Congress, but as it does so, a worrying bunker mentality is becoming apparent. And until it climbs out of the bunker, the “decline” that Pedraz identified isn’t going to stop.
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