The Day That Spanish Democracy Died
by Mike Summers
Thu 12th Jun 2014
These are exciting times for Spanish royalists. They anticipate a new king, and it appears they are going to get one. Certainly, there has been no serious challenge in parliament. The PSOE has just sided with the ruling party and voted in favour of the Abdication Law with only two exceptions. This law (legalising the abdication) is the first stage in putting Prince Felipe (Philip) on the throne. The actual vote was: 299 for, 19 against and 23 abstentions. Previously the succession to the throne was very unclear, since Spain did not invite King Juan Carlos to become king. He was imposed on Spain by Franco, before the transition to “democracy” took place.
But Spanish citizens wanted a referendum, so this hasty and cowardly act of parliament will enrage republicans and other true democrats alike. This is an all time low for representative government. Indeed, it can be said that this is the day that Spanish democracy died. What do citizens do when they have no redress? They rebel. The air was already thick with resentment and protest, but this could be the spark which ignites a wildfire. It would, however, have to be a very big fire to make a difference to the outcome.
Monday 2nd June was the day the King abdicated, and President Mariano Rajoy showed his unwavering support for Felipe, Prince of Aturias. That day saw large spontaneous demonstrations all over Spain, and more have been happening since then. The demonstrators were calling for a referendum to decide the issue, generally with the hope that the Third Spanish Republic would be the result. Now they will direct their anger towards the monarchy and the PSOE. Indeed, the PSOE has just committed political suicide.
There is a joke going the rounds in Spain. What do the PSOE and the monarchy have in common? They have both lost their heads! Can it be just a coincidence that (like the PSOE leader) King Juan Carlos has stepped down straight after the European elections; the results of which showed an improving confidence in republican parties? Is it not strange that this abdication comes soon after the legal investigation of the princess and the embarassment caused by increasingly large republican marches? So are things getting too hot for the Spanish monarchy? Is the King going before a final blow can be delivered?
Monarchs may appear to be stuffy, even quaint characters, generally innocent and out of touch with current events, but on closer inspection one sees that they keep themselves quietly informed, and move very quickly when necessary. Ergo, today's kings don't wait for outright humiliation and defeat. When the previous monarch abdicated (just before the Second Republic) so many years ago, he did so immediately, following municipal election results which went against the royalist side. Even so, he didn't wait to be asked to go. Equally, the next municipal elections might have forced Juan Carlos to abdicate even more abruptly, without allowing his son to take over, hence the urgency to abdicate and crown a new king.
So, Juan Carlos' abdication is a way of releasing a safety valve. But it is a gamble because the abdication and succession to the throne were not clear in the constitution. So far the gamble is paying off, and now that parliament has passed the first of the required laws, it seems inevitable that Felipe will become king. Then it will be impossible to dislodege him and establish a new republic for at least another decade. Let's hope that Felipe VI is good (as kings go) because Spain can no longer be called a democracy.