Deadlock on Spain's top court broken as new judges accepted

By Belén Carreño

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's constitutional court agreed on Thursday to accept four new judges, unblocking a stalemate that had limited the court's ability to issue rulings since June and shifting its political balance towards the left.

The mandates of four of the court's 12 judges expired in June. Two of their replacements were proposed by the government. The CGPJ - the governing body of Spain's judges and courts - was responsible for nominating the other two.

But the CGPJ has also been in deadlock, leaving it unable to agree on names until persuaded to reach a consensus by a government attempt to alter the system of electing judges, via a legislative amendment that the constitutional court itself unprecedentedly suspended the senate's vote on.

The Socialist government, which on Tuesday hailed the end of the logjam as a win for democracy, may also benefit from the top court's more progressive composition after years of conservative dominance.

Regional elections are scheduled for May and a national one by end-2023.

Once all the constitutional court appointments are ratified, it will be able rule on long-delayed and complex matters including a 2010 law that liberalised abortion legislation, dividing Spanish society. The law remains in force, but a challenge to it lodged by the conservative opposition has been awaiting a verdict for years.

While the constitutional court resumes work, the CGPJ remains stalemated, leaving about a third of Spain's top judicial posts expired and unfilled, including 19 Supreme Court judges, according to calculations by newspaper El Pais.

(Reporting by Belén Carreño; editing by Andrei Khalip and John Stonestreet)