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Tuesday, June 10, 2014 (read 1699 times)

Does Spain need a Monarchy?

by David

Here's a Tweet I read the other day from @Supersarcasmo:

"First you gang up on the Catholic Church and now against the monarchy. Without a doubt, the world is plotting to end the Middle-Ages."

Since King Juan Carlos announced his abdication, there has surfaced a sentiment in Spain that has always existed but wasn't always obvious. Since Juan Carlos became king almost 40 years ago, he has been seen as a person that has been cohesive and important in the development of Post-Franco Spain.

His role in this process is why Spain is considered to be Juancarlista which means that people support more the man than his institutional role as king. Juan Carlos was, until recently, a person that was unquestionable in his uprightness as a person. That has changed now and in recent poll from the newspaper El Pais, Juan Carlos I received an approval rating of 6.9/10. This result is better than any politician but less than Crown Prince Felipe (7.3/10) which reflects his fall in popularity. (He has always had an approval rating greater than 74%) But where does this "newfound" dislike for the monarchy come from and what is behind the protests against the crown that are occurring all over Spain?

To understand the tensions of today we have to go back to the Second Spanish Republic before the Spanish Civil War. Prior to 1931, Spain was governed by the military dictator Miguel Primo De Rivera whose slogan was "Country, Religion, Monarchy". Believing that all the ills of Spain were due to the ineptness of politicians he ruled the country incompetently himself for 8 years. His fall from power would lead to the Pact of San Sebastian. This pact was formed by most republican factions from conservatives to liberals and what this pact made clear was the abolishment of the monarchy in favor a republic.

In 1931 elections were held across Spain with Republicans winning convincingly in the cities while monarchist won in mostly rural areas (a considerable area considering the agrarian nature of 1930's Spain). Immediately the Republicans crafted a new constitution and King Alfonso XIII abandoned Spain forever. The new constitution was clearly anti-monarchical and included many liberal reforms (Stripping of Spanish Nobility of special legal status, universal suffrage, restrictions on the Church considered hostile etc…). All of this was the fuel that would explode in the form of the Civil War and subsequent dictatorship of Francisco Franco.

This resentment towards the crown today goes back to the republican era when the monarchy was considered a tradition that didn’t conform to contemporary Spanish society and was abolished. When Franco died in 1975, he would leave the country in the hands of his handpicked successor, King Juan Carlos I. Initially, Juan Carlos was groomed to continue the politics and policies of Franco but Juan Carlos, instead, chose to lead Spain towards democracy sacrificing his authority for a more representative government. This changed everything.

This example of openness and democracy is what has created the notion of Juancarlismo. Felipe VI has a difficult road ahead of him. He must ingratiate himself with the Spanish people the same way his father did as well as make relevant to everyday Spaniards the necessity of a monarchy.  Due to the opaqueness of royal accounting it is difficult to know what the Spanish royal family spends but it is estimated that the monarchy costs Spain approximately 60 million euros a year. This amount is difficult to justify when more than 20% of the population is without work and austerity measures have affected negatively the purchasing power of Spanish households.

Felipe VI, when he becomes King, will have a to do a list of urgent tasks but the most important will be his role in showing the Spanish people the he is relevant and necessary in the social-political structure of Spain in the 21st century.

Keywords: juan carlos,king juan carlos,spanish monarchy,spanish king,spanish republic,spanish nobility,juan carlos spain,royal family spain

Posted In: Spain, News


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