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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid