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

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    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.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora