Princess Letizia and Crowned Prince of Spain Felipe, left, stand next to King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in front of the Royal Palace in Madrid. Shelly Wall / Shutterstock.com
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced that King Juan Carlos, a man who played a crucial role in his country’s transition into democracy, has expressed his desire to renounce his place as the monarch of Spain. The surprising news comes after a recent plummet in popularity due to family scandals and the widening gap between the Spanish royals and their struggling people. Before the recent turmoil, however, the king had been wildly adored due to the steps he took in the wake of dictator Francisco Franco’s death to ensure Spaniards had a say in their government.
He will be succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Felipe. While the prince’s reputation has so far remained unscathed, questions about how the nation will respond to another monarch and whether there will be pressure to establish a republic have arisen. Many have already taken to social media to express their desires that Spain, which has been a republic twice before in its history, move toward installing a third republic.
When Juan Carlos took over from General Franco, he became Spain’s first crowned head of state for 44 years. But he soon ignored Franco’s supporters, who wanted an extension to autocratic rule, and ushered in a new system of parliamentary monarchy. As the years went on the king involved himself less in day-to-day politics, and became more of a figurehead.
He has been credited as a stabilising force for independence-minded areas such as Catalonia and the Basque region, and he also helped defuse an attempted coup in 1981….For much of his reign, Juan Carlos was seen as one of the world’s most popular monarchs, but recently many Spaniards have lost confidence in him. His reputation has been tarnished by a long-running corruption investigation into his daughter and her husband.
Support for the king fell further when it was discovered he had been on a lavish elephant hunting trip to Botswana in April 2012, in the middle of Spain’s financial crisis…[Prime Minister Rajoy] gave no reason for the decision, saying the monarch himself would explain, but Juan Carlos’ health is failing and he has had a number of hip operations in recent years.
[Now] the main concern is whether they will be able to save a damaged institution…On social networks, people are already asking whether it is time for Spain to become a republic. Some parties are calling for constitutional reform and a popular vote to pave the way for this change.
—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata
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