Spanish draft Bill to legalise royal succession approved

Elevation of Prince Felipe to throne expected later this month

King Juan Carlos of Spain and his son Felipe arrive for a military ceremony of the San Hermenegildo order held at the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial on the outskirts of Madrid yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Ballesteros

King Juan Carlos of Spain and his son Felipe arrive for a military ceremony of the San Hermenegildo order held at the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial on the outskirts of Madrid yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Ballesteros

Wed, Jun 4, 2014, 01:00

Spain is preparing for a swift royal succession, following King Juan Carlos’s abdication announcement on Monday, with his son Crown Prince Felipe expected to take the throne later this month.

King Juan Carlos (76) and Prince Felipe (46) yesterday attended a military parade in El Escorial, their first appearance together since the monarch’s revelation that he is ending his 39-year reign. With the succession expected to be formalised as early as June 18th, this was one of the last such occasions Juan Carlos will attend as king.

In an emergency cabinet meeting yesterday, the government approved the draft Bill that will legalise Spain’s first royal succession in the democratic era. The law is due to be voted on next week by congress, with only a simple majority required.

The governing Popular Party holds a majority and only a handful of leftist and regional nationalist parties have expressed opposition to the Bill.

The cabinet also approved an institutional statement, accompanying the succession law, which praises Juan Carlos’s reign, particularly his role in laying down the foundations of Spain’s modern democracy.

“Don Juan Carlos wanted to be, and was, king of all Spaniards,” it read. “Without his drive and leadership the democratic transition would simply not have been possible.”

However, while the succession law is expected to receive the support of around 90 per cent of congress, it has opened a debate in the main opposition Socialist Party, whose republican roots chime with a substantial, although not overwhelming, anti-monarchist feeling among ordinary Spaniards.

Socialist leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba yesterday acknowledged his party’s republican tradition, but insisted it had shelved this policy in the democratic era in the country’s best interests. “We’re not going to break that consensus now.”

However, the Socialist’s regional leader in the Balearic Islands, Francina Armengol, echoed some of her party colleagues by contradicting Mr Rubalcaba and calling for a referendum on the future of the monarchy. “The time has come to stage that vote so people can decide what they want,” she said.

Mr Rubalcaba is stepping down as party leader in the summer. The issue of whether to offer institutional support to the new King Felipe VI could be a thorny one for the candidates to succeed him, particularly as the Socialists seek to reconnect with an electorate that views the monarchy more critically than at any other time in the democratic era.

On Monday, just hours after the abdication was announced, thousands of people took to the streets across Spain to demand the monarchy’s abolition. The demonstrations were peaceful, although in Tarragona participants burned photographs of Prince Felipe.

Prime minister Mariano Rajoy rejected the possibility of a referendum on the monarchy, unless those campaigning for it managed to reform the constitution. He also said that Prince Felipe, who enjoys more popular support than his father, is fully prepared to become king.