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Spain’s Constitutional Court rules political party members must toe line

Source: El Pais - Fri 6th Jan 2017
Spain’s Constitutional Court rules political party members must toe line

Spain’s Constitutional Court considers that the right of members of political parties to freedom of expression is limited by their voluntarily belonging to an organization, to which they therefore owe loyalty. Sources at the court say the decision upholds a Supreme Court ruling rejecting an appeal made by Susana Pérez-Alonso, a member of the Socialist Party (PSOE) who was suspended for 20 months after she criticized the decision to cancel party primaries in the municipal elections in Oviedo, Asturias, in 2007.

Pérez-Alonso had claimed her right to free speech had been breached by the suspension. However, the Supreme Court ruled that she had “exceeded” her right to free speech by speaking out about her party’s decision to call off the selection process for candidates in the northern city.

Following the Supreme Court’s rejection of Pérez-Alonso’s appeal, the Constitutional Court has gone a step further. Until now, courts resolved cases of party discipline on the basis of procedure: political parties, or any other organization, have the right to sanction members if they infringe their rules, and as such, any sanction cannot be appealed against.

But the Constitutional Court’s ruling now states that even fundamental rights are limited by belonging to an organization and that Pérez-Alonso exceeded her right to freedom of expression because, in this case, she was required to avoid public criticism of the Socialist Party.

Two of the Constitutional Court’s 12 members, Juan Antonio Xiol and Encarnación Roca, who participated in the Supreme Court hearing of Pérez-Alonso’s appeal, abstained, while Fernando Valdés voted against the ruling, arguing that a fundamental right cannot be limited by membership of an organization. The ruling was supported by the president of the Constitutional Court, Francisco Pérez de los Cobos.

Constitutional Court rulings cannot be appealed against.

The ruling is expected to be published in coming days, according to the Europa Press news agency.

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