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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs