El Salvador's executive branch battles the Constitutional Chamber

The Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court (the "Sala") has again issued rulings which thwart initiatives of the FMLN government of president Salvador Sánchez Cerén.  Two decisions in the past two days further inflame the ongoing struggle between the Sala and the executive branch of the government in El Salvador.

Yesterday, the Sala issued a ruling which overturned a pension "reform" which had recently been passed by the National Assembly.    The new law would have allowed the government to borrow against the national pension fund to finance government operations, up to a ceiling of 50% of the value of the pension fund.   The previous limit on borrowing was 45%.  

The second ruling came today when the Sala ruled that the current budget adopted by the Natioinal Assembly was also unconstitutional.   The ruling sends the budget back to the National Assembly to fix. In May of this year, the country's attorney general had warned that the budget as approved was unconstitutional.

These rulings are part of a chain of rulings which have outraged the FMLN government. Last year, the Sala blocked a plan to issue $900 million in bonds to finance public security measures. in 2016, the Sala also prohibited collection of a 13% tariff on electrical bills which the government claimed to need.

The president and his party see the Sala's actions as an attempt to hobble the government in its attempts to deal with security problems and resolve the ongoing fiscal crisis leading into the 2018 elections.

In a speech to the nation yesterday, Sánchez Cerén accused the Sala of intentionally sowing chaos, destabilization, crisis and confrontation.  He asserted that the Sala would be responsible for pensioners not receiving their checks.
Sánchez Cerén and the FMLN are in a difficult position.   There is a fiscal crisis and the government is woefully short on cash.   With divided, polarized government, the president has little opportunity to get measures passed through the National Assembly, and when he does, the Sala steps in to declare the measures unconstitutional.   The open question is whether voters will blame the FMLN for failing to accomplish more, or will attribute the problems to obstruction by right wing parties and bias by a conservative-leaning court.


David said…
"Conservative-leaning court"?
Tim said…
Is there a better adjective? Pro-individual rights, anti-political parties, pro-business, pro-human rights....