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July 24, 2014
Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Huge crowds take to streets to demand referendum on royals

MADRID — Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Spain yesterday, demanding a vote on whether to rid Spain of its royal family descended from the Spanish branch of the House of Bourbon.

According to news reports from the country, more than 60 towns and cities held impromtu demonstrations after King Juan Carlos opted to abdicate the throne, clearing the path for his son Felipe to take over. More than 20,000 headed to Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square and thousands more converged on Barcelona — heart of the Catalonian independence movement. Protests even stretched to other cities in Europe and Latin America.

“Send the Bourbons to the sharks!” Republican flag-waving protesters shouted in Madrid in unison.

“I came here because I believe we should at least vote in a referendum. Three out of four Spaniards have not decided to have this (political) system, so I think it would be fair,” said Hector Muñoz, a 25-year-old student demonstrating in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square.

“People are calling for political regeneration, a change in the institutional functioning of the state after around 40 years of democracy, and they’ve started with the royals,” said Jordi Rodriguez Virgili, professor of political communication at Navarra University.

Spain’s far-left parties were the first yesterday to call for a national referendum to abolish Spain’s monarchy, emboldened by their recent performance in European Union parliamentary elections.

Impetus for a vote on the future of the monarchy surged online too, with one petition garnering over 100,000 signatures in support of the motion.

Burning issue

While the monarchy in Spain is largely symbolic, Juan Carlos’ surprise decision yesterday may hold implications for the burning issue of Catalonian separatism, which is to hold a referendum later this year, albeit one without any legal standing.

An act of Parliament is needed to bring the abdication into force and allow the future King Felipe VI to ascend to the throne.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy held a Cabinet meeting last night to draw up the required legislation. The transition will probably be accomplished by passing a law through Parliament, where the ruling Popular Party (PP) has an absolute majority. The prime minister said yesterday he hoped Felipe would be proclaimed king “very soon.”

A second constitutional revision will also be required to ensure Crown Prince Felipe’s first-born daughter will succeed him and changing the rules could open the door for additional changes, including demands by the opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) to grant Catalonia more autonomy or special financial benefits to bring the region onside.

“I think both parties could agree on a change to accommodate the needs of Catalonia,” said Antonio Barroso, a London-based analyst with Teneo Intelligence, a political and business risk consulting firm.

Catalonia’s president, Artur Mas, said yesterday the king’s abdication would not derail his plans to hold a vote on succession. “We have a date with our future on November 9,” Mas told reporters after the speech. “There will be a change in king, but there won’t be a change in the political process that the people of Catalonia are following.”

Herald with AP, Reuters

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