Sofia Typaladou on the crisis of the Spanish monarchy
Felipe VI became the new king of Spain on June 19th. On the day he accedes to the throne and everything looks perfect; he and his wife are brightly smiling and saluting the people on the streets. They cross Madrid in Franco's Rolls Royce.
This is a Madrid that has been masked off with pro-monarchic signs and deprived from the right to hold anti-monarchy demonstrations or even to express support for the republic. Some 4.300 policemen and 2.672 civil guards were send to the streets to “secure” the proclamation of the new king.
Despite the prohibitions, people gathered at Madrid's central square, Puerta del Sol, to express their discontent with the monarchy. It’s a system that, as well as being antiquated, is corrupt and antidemocratic. The popularity of the dad-King, Juan Carlos I, had dramatically fallen in recent years and trust in monarchy has fallen by half since 1994. This is partly due to Juan Carlos' extravagant persona, i.e. hunting elephants in Africa and bears in Russia and being at the same time member of animal rights' organizations, and partly due to the economic scandals that involve the royal family, especially in a time of a growing economic crisis.
The New York Times estimated the King's fortune in €1.800 million, pointing out that it is a secret how he managed to accumulate all this wealth given that when he acceded to the throne after Franco's death, his personal wealth amount to very little. His daughter Christina and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, are on trial for one of the biggest ever corruption scandals (the Nóos case). Christina made an especially provocative performance before the court, claiming she has no idea of pretty much anything – she answered 579 times that she did not remember, she did not know, or she was not aware – of her country's fiscal system, or basic legal knowledge, although she is the first female member of the royal family that holds a university degree, and this in political science.
It came as no surprise that when Juan Carlos I abdicated in favor of his son, on June 2, a massive anti-monarchic protest wave broke out in over a hundred cities and thirty European and Latin American capitals. Protesters were asking for a referendum to decide for the continuation of the monarchy. Epicenter of the protests was Madrid's central square Puerta del Sol – cradle of the 15M movement – that was covered in the red -yellow - purple colors of the Spanish republic, accompanied by slogans as: “Feed the Bourbons to the sharks” , “Spain tomorrow is going to be republic”.
The ruling Popular Party (PP), on the other hand, rushed to amend existing legislation so that only the Supreme Court can hear cases against Juan Carlos, in order to shield him from two pending paternity suits. All this, under mainstream media's bombarding the population in these last weeks with praises to the retired king and reassurances of the new king's capabilities.
During king Felipe IV's coronation the show went on.
Despite the media and the governmental efforts, about 250 people gathered in Puerta del Sol in the day of Felipe's assention to the throne. The police were even arresting people for displaying republican symbols. Eight people were arrested, but were soon released. At the same time, people went out in the streets of Barcelona, Valencia, Valladolid, A Coruña, and the three Basque capitals to reclaim their right to decide for their political system - which will hopefully come earlier than in 39 years that dad king's rule lasted.