Spain’s King Juan Carlos I, 76, decided today by surprise to abdicate in his son Felipe, 46. But the succession is not automatic. The Spanish parliament must approve an organic law before.
Probably the king chose this moment because he is exhausted, with health problems , his popularity is lowering and the parliament has now an absolute majority of the conservative Popular Party of President Mariano Rajoy which would make easier to pass the needed law. The socialist party, second more voted in Spain is also in favour of the constitutional monarchy, as its battered leader Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said today. Nevertheless it’s a delicate moment for Spain with the economic crisis, the surge of the radical groups in the last european elections and the tensions caused by the process of the Catalonians towards a referendum for the independence.
King Juan Carlos would be remembered as the man who made possible the transition from the dictatorship of Franco to the democracy in the 70s and faced an attempted coup in 1981. His popularity was high then because of how he acted those years and he was respected by a majority, but lately His rate of approval lowered because of scandals affecting members of his family. In addition, his health problems had people talking about the convenience of an abdication that finally happened today.
He said in a message to the nation that it’s time to give the chance “to a younger generation, with new energies, determined to undertake with decision the changes and reforms that the present conjuncture is requesting and face with renewed intensity and dedication the challenges of tomorrow.”
His son, who will be called Felipe VI, has had a good preparation but doesn’t have his father’s political experience, despite he represented him in official events in Spain and abroad when it was necessary. Precisely he was in El Salvador in a State visit when the news broke.
This step will be a test to the stability of the kingdom in Spain which was reinstalled with Juan Carlos only 39 years ago. This will be the first succession since then.
Spain is a constitutional Monarchy and the King or Queen is proclaimed by the Parliament. Felipe will be the Head of State but his functions are mainly representative. He will be the head of the armed forces. The executive power resides in the President of the Government elected each four years.
The future king is married with Letizia Ortiz a former journalist, now princess of Asturias and has two daughters: Leonor, the future heir and Sofia.