“The proposal to extend the state of alarm for one month could be unconstitutional”

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The Spanish Constitution does not expressly limit the maximum period by which the alarm status can be extended. Neither the Organic Law 4/1981 regulating the states of alarm, exception and siege, in which it is only stated that their duration “will be strictly indispensable to ensure the restoration of normality” and that it must be applied “in a proportionate manner to the circumstances”.

However, there are already voices in the legal field that question the constitutionality of the proposal by President Pedro Sánchez to extend the exceptional status decreed in Spain to control the coronavirus pandemic for a month instead of 15 days.

From 15 days to 15 days

Former vice president of the Constitutional Court Ramón González Arribas affirms that “it is one thing that there is no limit to the extensions and another that the extensions are arbitrarily proposed for more than 15 days.” “The terms that are not declared non-extendable, both in the administrative procedure and in the judicial processes, can be extended but never for a longer time than the term is set. That is to say, it can be doubled, tripled, quadripillar … but each time the same number of days (15) or less, never again ».

The magistrate emeritus of the High Court explains in a telephone conversation with The Independent that “any interpretation that is made on the extension of the norms that refer to situations by their very nature other than democratic normality must be interpreted restrictively”.

In the Government, and also some constitutionalists, they understand, however, that, in the absence of a limitation on the duration of the state of alarm, it is possible to request a new extension for more than two weeks. That is the maximum term that the Constitution does establish in its article 116.2 for the first time that the Government decrees the state of alarm.

“Reason for legal insecurity”

Hence, Sánchez now explains that for the next and what appears to be the last expansion, he can do it for longer. Government sources recall that the declaration of the state of alarm for the strike by air traffic controllers in 2010 has already been extended for a month.

“Why do you know it will be the last time it will have to be extended?” Asks Rodríguez Arribas. For the magistrate, the legal consequence of Sánchez asking Congress for an extension of one month instead of two weeks is that “the intervention of the Parliament (representative of popular sovereignty) is limited to longer terms and, therefore, the The Government’s proposal to Parliament (not its approval) could be unconstitutional. We would be facing a reason of legal insecurity. I don’t think it is a good way to proceed. If Parliament is saying yes to each extension, why extend it to 30 days? It doesn’t make sense either, ”says the magistrate.

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