April 27, 2018
The return of Spain's government by parliament?
Mariano Rajoy's government has the weakest support of any minority government in the 40 years of Spain's democracy, and so in 2016 the opposition parties were making grand plans for a government by parliament. The idea was that the opposition - sometimes including Ciudadanos, which provides outside support to the PP government - would be able to use its numbers to set the legislative agenda. But this has been frustrated not just because the parliament's rules of procedure favour the government introducing legislation but because Article 134 of Spain's constitution gives the government a veto power over any proposed legislation with a negative fiscal impact. In under 18 months since Rajoy's reappointment as PM, his cabinet has exercised this veto 62 times, sometimes with a tenuous link to the budget. On two occasions the board of the parliament rejected the government's veto as unfounded, which led to the government filing a competence question before the constitutional court. The government argued that Article 134 gave it an absolute veto power, but the court has sided with the board of the parliament and ruled that the government's veto power is subject to the decision of the board. The court also stresses that the budget link has to be direct, real, and effective, and affect the current budget and not only future ones.
Ciudadanos has come to the rescue of the government by commissioning an opinion from the parliament's legal counsel on whether the court's decision means that the pieces of legislation stopped by the government so far can be reactivated or not. Ciudadanos has other objections to many legislative proposals introduced by the left opposition, and the government's fiscal veto was a convenient way for them to avoid taking a position on them.