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Spanish king abdicates: time for a new generation 'to move to the front line'

Tuesday, June 3rd 2014 - 05:16 UTC
Full article 76 comments
The abdication after four decades on the throne follows health problems and corruption allegations in the royal family The abdication after four decades on the throne follows health problems and corruption allegations in the royal family
The king’s son, who will become King Felipe VI, is considered the Spanish crown monarch best prepared for the post The king’s son, who will become King Felipe VI, is considered the Spanish crown monarch best prepared for the post
Rajoy and the cabinet meet Tuesday to discuss the legislative changes required for the handover to Felipe VI Rajoy and the cabinet meet Tuesday to discuss the legislative changes required for the handover to Felipe VI

King Juan Carlos of Spain announced on Monday that he was abdicating in favor of Crown Prince Felipe, his 46-year-old son, explaining in an address to the nation that it was time for a new generation to “move to the front line” and face the country’s challenges.

 The king’s abdication, after almost four decades on the throne, follows health problems but also comes amid a decline in his popularity, particularly as a result of a corruption scandal centered on his son-in-law that has cast a harsh light on the royal family’s lifestyle and finances at a time of economic crisis and record joblessness in Spain.

Juan Carlos said he resolved to step down in January, when he turned 76. He said that a generational change would open “a new chapter of hope” and that his son “represents stability” for Spain and the monarchy.

The king’s son, who will become King Felipe VI, is a former Olympic yachtsman who studied international relations at Georgetown University and is regarded as relatively untouched by his family’s scandals. In May 2004, he married Letizia Ortiz, a television journalist.

The abdication was first made official on Monday by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who called Juan Carlos a “tireless defender of our interests.” The government is set to meet Tuesday to discuss the legislative changes required for the handover, which Mr. Rajoy said would happen soon.

Rajoy called the abdication “proof of the maturity of our democracy” — a message echoed by most of Spain’s other party leaders. However, some far-left politicians called instead for a referendum on whether to maintain the monarchy, with anti-royal protests already taking place in Madrid and other cities on Monday evening.

Juan Carlos came to the throne in 1975, after the death of Gen. Francisco Franco. The king was credited with playing a central role in consolidating Spain’s return to democracy, alongside politicians led by Adolfo Suárez, whom the king chose as prime minister. Mr. Suárez died in March.

In February 1981, after rebel officers held lawmakers hostage at gunpoint, the king helped abort their coup by ordering soldiers to return to their barracks in a televised speech.

He had also been cast as providing stability amid separatist drives in the Basque region and in Catalonia. Separatism has recently gained momentum in Catalonia, whose politicians plan an independence referendum in November that Mr. Rajoy has vowed to prevent. King Juan Carlos has also defended Spain’s unity, saying last December that the monarchy wanted a Spain “we can all fit in.”

The king's reputation has been tainted by questions about the spending habits of his daughter, Princess Cristina, 48, and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, the Duke of Palma, who is being investigated in the embezzlement of millions from sports events. The fall in the royal family’s public standing has encouraged Spain’s news media to drop its traditional deference and delve into the love life of the king and other previously taboo subjects.

The king himself brought on more scrutiny in April 2012, after falling during an elephant hunting trip to Africa and requiring hip replacement surgery. Outrage over the trip forced him to make a rare public apology.

Last year, the main Socialist opposition party took steps in Parliament that for the first time formally requested information about the king’s personal finances, after the newspaper El Mundo revealed that he inherited money from his father, hidden in a Swiss bank. The royal household eventually said the Swiss money had been spent and the account long closed.

Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • Anglotino

    Amazing how swiftly the Spanish government can get around to working on abdication laws now that they need them, but can't seem to get anywhere near dealing with Catalonia's quest for a referendum.

    Seeing how most Spanish speaking countries have been served by a republican form of government, I think that a constitutional monarchy is the best fit for Spain. Pity the idea didn't take off more in Latin America. They would have been better emulating the UK than the US.

    Jun 03rd, 2014 - 07:12 am 0
  • FI_Frost

    This was on the the cards for sometime: turns out the elephant in the room was in fact an elephant! (an ex-elelphant I should add).

    Jun 03rd, 2014 - 08:01 am 0
  • JimHandley

    For: 1 Anglotino & 2 FI_Frost.

    Hello,

    Just a couple of points:

    Spain already has legislation, which regulates the monarch’s possible abdication.

    For many years’ it has been widely rumoured that Juan Carlos has kept a succession of mistresses. It is also said that, during the infamous Elephant hunting trip –when the ruler was still president of Spain’s WWF– the press photograph of the Spanish sovereign with the slain ‘Loxodonta Africana’, pictured his present paramour, too. Furthermore, for many years’ rumours have persisted that the king was one of the several secret instigators of the failed 1981 coup d’état. However, some sources claim that –at the last minute– the king got cold feet, withdrew his support for the military uprising and is no longer trusted by some in Spanish Establishment on neither the Left nor the Right.

    Cheers!

    Jim, in Madrid.

    Jun 03rd, 2014 - 09:30 am 0
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