Protecting Political Rights under the Threat of the Covid-19 Pandemic: The Emergence of Strict Judicial Scrutiny in Spain

The Covid-19 and the different states of alarm declared in Spain have entailed multiple restrictions of fundamental rights, in an unprecedented scale. Precisely, the unprecedented length of the state of alarm and the threat to public health has collided in Spain with the need to hold free elections and, therefore, the right to political participation. This paper explores the legal basis for restrictions on political rights under the state of alarm, the decisions taken by Spanish public authorities limiting them during the pandemic and the judicial response to them. Surprisingly, the usual deferential judicial attitude in time of emergency vanished and the Spanish judiciary has been active in protecting political rights and deploying a mixture of judicial review scrutiny -both formal and substantial- which has stressed the protection of political rights even in time of emergency.