Spain’s Congress voted 180-160 on Tuesday to move forward with legislation proposed by the Unidos Podemos parliamentary group that if approved following amendments would decriminalize public insults against the Spanish monarchy, symbols including the Spanish flag or the national anthem, state institutions or religious beliefs or entities.
Socialist party (PSOE) and regional nationalist parties Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), Partit Demòcrata Europeu Català (PDeCAT) and the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (PNV), which formed part of the coalition that brought the PSOE to power in June through a no-confidence vote against then-President Mariano Rajoy of the conservative Partido Popular (PP).
Introduced by Unidos Podemos as a free-speech initiative, the proposal would modify Spain’s criminal code to eliminate crimes on the books since the dictatorship of Francisco Franco that include stiff penalties and even jail time for insults to the Spanish King and other members of the royal family or mockery of religious beliefs, particularly with regard to the dominant and former national religion of Spain, Roman Catholicism.
If approved as it now stands, the proposed legislation would also modify the penal code with reference to the crime of “glorifying terrorism”, which under the Rajoy government was used to prosecute Twitter users, rappers and even puppeteers for political dissent and satirical commentary on the Spanish state’s prosecution of members of the Basque separatist group ETA.
The defense of freedom of expression was sufficient argument to garner support from the PSOE and the PNV, but both parliamentary groups said they were not comfortable with all aspects of the proposed legislation. Each said they intend to propose amendments that will need to be accepted by Unidos Podemos in order to continue their support when the legislation comes up for a final vote in Congress.
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