Only one week left to approve reform of Spain's controversial 'gag law'

The fifth Interior Commission meeting on Tuesday, which was supposed to be the last, ended without agreement on the main sticking points

MELCHOR SÁIZ-PARDO MADRID.

The Spanish government's plan to approve the reform of the 'gag law', as Sánchez promised in June 2018, is in jeopardy due to time constraints and disagreements.

On Tuesday, the fifth meeting of the Interior Commission was held, which, in theory, was to be the last one. PSOE and Podemos were due to vote on a text to take to the commission charged with enacting the reforms, but in the end the two parties backed down when they realised that the bill was not going to be supported by ERC or Bildu.

Against this backdrop, the government groups and their partners agreed to give themselves one more week to negotiate and to call a final meeting on Tuesday 31 January. Points that have been causing friction for a year, and on which no progress has been made, include the use of rubber bullets, disrespect for authority, and disobedience.

Only on the use of rubber bullets has there been any movement. The government's proposal is to revive an old idea: to remove rubber bullets from the future text, arguing that they are not included in the current security law either. Then the government would make a formal announcement that it is committed to carrying out a study on their substitution and that, in the meantime, a protocol would be drawn up that would specifically outline the circumstances in which the projectiles can be used.

But despite this move, the government does not currently have the 17 votes needed from ERC and Bildu, according to parliamentary sources, to achieve an absolute majority of 176 votes as is required for this public safety law.

"Despite having the votes, there is a lack of political will to deactivate the Gag Law on the part of those who promised to repeal it. The most thorny and harmful points of the law are still without agreement after a year of negotiations," Bildu MP Jon Iñarritu said.

Maria Dantas, a member of the Republican ERC, was equally categorical. "We have made it very clear what we want. We have already lowered our claims by accepting that there was not going to be a repeal," Dantas said, in reference to Pedro Sánchez's promise that after coming to power in 2018 he guaranteed this complete "repeal" of the article.