News / Europe

Spain Prepares for Felipe's Coronation

Spain's King Juan Carlos, center, Queen Sofia, left, and Crown Prince Felipe attend the signature ceremony of the act of abdication at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain, June 18, 2014.
Spain's King Juan Carlos, center, Queen Sofia, left, and Crown Prince Felipe attend the signature ceremony of the act of abdication at the Royal Palace in Madrid, Spain, June 18, 2014.
VOA News
A teary-eyed King Juan Carlos on Wednesday signed an act of parliament sealing his abdication of the Spanish crown after a four-decade reign, clearing the way for his 46-year-old son, Felipe VI, to be sworn in as king Thursday morning.
 
Juan Carlos signed the document at a televised ceremony in front of scores of dignitaries in Madrid's old Royal Palace.

Crown Prince Felipe will ascend to the Spanish throne at midnight Wednesday. He is to be formally proclaimed monarch and swear an oath at a ceremony with lawmakers in Parliament on Thursday.

The landmark occasion late Wednesday will be most notable for what it won't include: no state banquet, no foreign royals or heads of state, no ostentatious ceremonies or parades.

By royal standards, it will be humble: reception guests will be served hot and cold tapas-style nibbles, which they will eat while standing. There will be no champagne, just sparkling cava wine from Spain's Catalonia region.

After a brief military parade Thursday, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia will take a drive through expected crowds along some of Madrid's most emblematic streets and monuments.

The palace acknowledged that the customary pomp had been eliminated "in keeping with the criteria of austerity that the times recommend.''

Political issues ahead

Many Spaniards have high expectations for the new king. 

The new monarch faces daunting expectations that he can help resolve some thorny political problems - especially a surging independence movement in wealthy Catalonia in northeastern Spain - even though his role as head of state is largely symbolic.
 
Part of this is because the 46-year-old, who has a degree in diplomacy from Washington, D.C.'s Georgetown University and is married to a television journalist, is widely popular.
 
He also has an untainted image that contrasts with that of his father and other members of his family.
 
Soldiers rehearse outside the Royal Palace on June 18, a day before 46-year-old Prince Felipe will be proclaimed king in Madrid, Spain, on June 19.Soldiers rehearse outside the Royal Palace on June 18, a day before 46-year-old Prince Felipe will be proclaimed king in Madrid, Spain, on June 19.
x
Soldiers rehearse outside the Royal Palace on June 18, a day before 46-year-old Prince Felipe will be proclaimed king in Madrid, Spain, on June 19.
Soldiers rehearse outside the Royal Palace on June 18, a day before 46-year-old Prince Felipe will be proclaimed king in Madrid, Spain, on June 19.

But some constitutional experts and politicians are hoping the new king will use behind-the-scenes influence to push Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and opposition leaders into reforming Spain's 1978 constitution to resolve the Catalan crisis by
redesigning relations between autonomous regions and the central government.
 
"The new king could push in some way a constitutional reform to help to legitimize the monarchy more fully," said Joaquin Tornos, a law professor at the University of Barcelona.
 
Felipe - whose father King Juan Carlos lost favor after going on a secret elephant hunting trip at the height of Spain's financial crisis in 2012 - could use gestures, conversations and consultations to push dialogue, Tornos said.
 
As constitutional monarch, he is seen as the only player who could break a standoff between Catalan leader Artur Mas – who vows to hold a vote on independence in November - and Rajoy, who pledges to block the vote.
 
Catalan independence issue

Mas has tapped into a growing Catalan independence mood fuelled by a long recession and perceptions of unfair taxation.
 
It cannot hurt that Felipe has studied Catalan – the language spoken by 7 million people in northeastern Spain - setting him apart from most of the Spanish-speaking Madrid-based ruling class.
 
"He can function as a moderator or arbitrator to help a new consensus emerge on a possible constitutional reform, which is very necessary and which I believe should be profound," said Gregorio Camara, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Granada, who led a team that drafted a white paper on constitutional reform last year for opposition Socialists.
 
Spain's 1978 constitution was the fruit of a delicate consensus on stability after the long dictatorship that followed the brutal civil war of the 1930s.
 
After the 1975 death of General Francisco Franco, Spain's polarized leaders agreed to a constitutional monarchy to mollify rightists. They also created 17 autonomous regions with a promise of significant devolution for the separatist-minded Basques and for Catalonia.
 
Thirty-six years later, the consensus has crumbled, undermined by economic hard times and high-level corruption.
 
Criminal charges against Felipe's brother-in-law – accused of embezzling millions of euros of public funds - were a major factor in King Juan Carlos' stepping down. Separately, a former ruling People's Party (PP) treasurer is in jail on bribery, money-laundering and other charges.
 
Monarchy put to vote?

Still reeling from the euro zone crisis and battered by crippling unemployment, Spaniards are in a feisty mood.
 
A recent poll showed that most now say they would like to vote on whether they have a monarchy; many Catalans and Basques feel the promise of self-rule was a cruel hoax as the central government has balked at further devolution; and the Socialists and center-right PP who have shared power for decades have hit historic lows with voters.
 
Emerging leaders from the left are calling for a complete overhaul at a constitutional convention followed by ratification in a freshly elected Parliament and a people's referendum.
 
"The consensus of '78, of the transition, doesn't work anymore. The media, the political parties, the unions, the judges, the monarchy, none of it works," said Juan Carlos Monedero, spokesman for Podemos, a new leftist political party that took a surprise 8 percent of the vote in the May 25 European election.
 
The beleaguered Socialists - hemorrhaging voters and struggling to renew their discredited leadership - have also embraced constitutional reform.
 
In the white paper led by Camara last year, Socialists argued a new constitution should change Spain's territorial model into a federal state that explicitly recognizes the historical, cultural and linguistic differences of Catalonia, the Basque country and Galicia.
 
The idea is to address weaknesses in the 1978 Constitution, which critics say diluted self-rule for Catalonia and the Basques by trying to treat all 17 autonomous regions equally, even those with no historical quest for nationhood.
 
Tourists walk past a souvenir store with a sign featuring the image of Spain's King Juan Carlos and Crown Prince Felipe in central Madrid, Spain, June 17, 2014.Tourists walk past a souvenir store with a sign featuring the image of Spain's King Juan Carlos and Crown Prince Felipe in central Madrid, Spain, June 17, 2014.
x
Tourists walk past a souvenir store with a sign featuring the image of Spain's King Juan Carlos and Crown Prince Felipe in central Madrid, Spain, June 17, 2014.
Tourists walk past a souvenir store with a sign featuring the image of Spain's King Juan Carlos and Crown Prince Felipe in central Madrid, Spain, June 17, 2014.

Senate proposal

It also proposes making the Senate - one of Spain's most criticized institutions - into a body that represents the interests of 17 regions - another way to address Catalonia's grievances.
 
Few in the ruling People's Party, however, support constitutional reform and many question how far the king can play a negotiating role given the limitations on his power.
 
"The important thing would be to rebuild a wider consensus, a political accord, between the PP and the Socialists, rather than destroy the constitutional architecture," said Javier Zarzalejos, head of the conservative FAES think tank.
 
Others argue that the PP and Socialists could agree minor changes to the constitution and pass them through Parliament as they did in 2011, for example, to put a deficit ceiling into the constitution at the height of the fiscal crisis.
 
Rajoy is resisting debate on reform. Officials close to him say his view is that a new constitution wouldn't satisfy Catalans who want to secede. They say the prime minister believes Spain is already so highly decentralized - under a series of pacts the central government has with each region - that a constitutional reform could even lead to less devolution.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AFP and AP.
 

You May Like

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs