Anti-royalists take to streets as Spain king abdicates

Pro-republic supporters wave republican flags and carry placards demonstrate in Madrid on Sunday.

Pro-republic supporters wave republican flags and carry placards demonstrate in Madrid on Sunday.

MADRID — Thousands of anti-royalists took to the streets across Spain calling for a vote on the monarchy’s survival after the abdication of King Juan Carlos.

Rather than hand over the throne to Crown Prince Felipe, to be known as King Felipe VI, protesters demanded a referendum on the very survival of the institution.

Late into the night after the king’s abdication announcement on Monday, thousands of people filled Madrid’s central Puerta del Sol square as rallies were called in major cities around the country.

Protesters filled the square and police closed access to the royal palace just a short walk away from the demonstration.

“Tomorrow, Spain will be a republic!,” chanted crowds of demonstrators brandishing placards reading: “No more kings, a referendum“; “A royal transition… without a king”; and “Bourbons up for election.”

“I think now would be a good time to proclaim a republic,” said Paola Torija, a 24-year-old therapist for the disabled, following the king’s abdication announcement.

“He had his moment of glory but today it is a bit archaic, a bit useless, an extra cost especially in the crisis we are living in,” she said.

Republican sentiment remains widespread in Spain, which only restored the monarchy in 1975 after the death of Gen. Francisco Franco, who had ruled for four decades.

Juan Carlos won widespread personal respect for his role in guiding post-Franco Spain to democracy, most famously appearing on national television to halt an attempted military coup in February 1981.

But many Spaniards were angered when they discovered the king took a luxury African elephant-hunting safari in 2012 while they suffered at home from a crisis that left one in four people unemployed.

Resentment grew as the king’s elder daughter Cristina was formally named a suspect in a judicial investigation into her husband Inaki Urdangarin’s allegedly corrupt business practices.

In a study by pollster Sigma Dos published in January 2014, support for the king fell to 41 percent while those wanting him to abdicate in favor of Felipe surged to 62 percent.

Most worryingly for royalists, the same survey found only 49 percent approved of the monarchy itself.

Three small leftist parties — Podemos, United Left and the Equo green party which together won 20 percent of the vote in May 25 elections for seats in the European Parliament — called for a referendum on the monarchy. — AFP





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