In a shock move this Tuesday morning (20 December), Spain's constitutional court blocked proposed legislation regarding the way judges are appointed to some courts making its way through the parliamentary process.
The measure had already been approved by the lower house and was expected to be passed without problem by the Senate on Thursday, but the conservative Partido Popular (PP) applied to have the vote halted.
If the legislation had passed, it would have reduced the size of the majority vote needed to select judges, and could have meant that conservative judges - who are in the majority at the constitutional court - were no longer in control.
Prime minister Pedro Sánchez said the government would respect the ruling, but would appeal and would use whatever measures are needed to resolve the situation. "There are no precedents for this in the democratic history of our country, nor in Europe's institutional spaces," he said, and accused opposition politicians of denying democracy 44 years after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco.
However, PP representatives were jubilant at the court decision, saying "The rule of law has won". They and other opposition politicians had accused he government of trying to speed up the process of appointing judges to suit its own purposes.
There has been a four-year stand-off since the mandates of one-third of the constitutional court judges expired and arguments have raged about who should be appointed to replace them.