Spain Felipe: MPs back royal succession

Plural Left MPs hold up placards in parliament calling for a referendum, 11 June Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Plural Left MPs held up placards in parliament calling for a referendum

Parliament in Spain has backed the abdication of King Juan Carlos and accession of his son Prince Felipe by a large majority.

The succession had the backing of both the ruling centre-right Popular Party and the opposition Socialist party despite some Socialist misgivings.

Radical leftists in the chamber had demanded a referendum.

Madrid and other cities have seen anti-monarchy rallies since Juan Carlos, 76, announced on 2 June he would step down.

He said he was abdicating after nearly 40 years on the throne to make way for a "new generation".

The government had said parliament had to approve the transition under the terms of the 1978 constitution.

Referendum campaigners reacted furiously to the vote on Twitter, with the topic "We want to vote" quickly trending.

'Resolutely democratic'

The bill was passed in Congress by 299 votes in favour to 19 against, and 23 abstentions.

It will now have to be approved by the upper house of parliament, the Senate, which is expected to vote on 17 June. The prince is expected to be proclaimed King Felipe VI on 19 June.

Opening the debate on Wednesday, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy defended "the continuity of the institutions", saying the "form of the state" was not up for discussion.

"We are not here to modify facts but to underline with our bill that in Spain we rely on a resolutely democratic parliamentary monarchy," he said.

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Image caption From left: Prince Felipe, Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos in Madrid on Monday
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Image caption Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's party dominates parliament
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Image caption Socialist leader Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said the monarchic system had underpinned peace in Spain after the Franco years

The outgoing Socialist leader, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, also backed the bill, expressing his loyalty to the constitution, which marked the foundation of democratic Spain under its monarch, after the Franco dictatorship.

Three Socialist MPs who asked for a free vote on the bill were slapped down by party spokeswoman Soraya Rodriguez, who reminded them on Tuesday that they had to vote as a bloc in favour of the bill.

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Media captionA wave of republicanism is spreading across the country

But among those who abstained was Socialist MP Odon Elorza, who said in a Spanish-language blog post that he could not back the bill because the "social instability suffered by millions of families" was in itself a breach of the consensus which had governed the 1978 constitution.

"The... transition pact will not go on forever, and was strongly influenced by the limits imposed by the end of the dictatorship," he wrote.

Speaking in the debate, the spokesman of the Plural Left Group, Cayo Lara, called for a referendum, saying the monarchy was an "anachronistic" institution which was "radically unfair".

The speaker of the parliament, Jesus Posada, said the "will of the citizens" had been expressed and he was satisfied with the outcome of the vote.

Opinion polls published at the weekend give a mixed picture of sentiment among Spaniards.

A poll for the centre-left daily El Pais suggested 62% of people wanted a referendum, while 49% would favour the continuation of the monarchy under Felipe, compared with 36% who would back a republic.

Another poll, for the centre-right El Mundo, suggested 55.7% backed the monarchy and 72.9% thought Felipe would make a good king.

He will inherit the throne at a time when Spain is struggling with high unemployment and growing demands for independence for Catalonia.

For much of Juan Carlos's reign, he was seen as one of the world's most popular monarchs, but recently many Spaniards lost confidence in him.

In part, a long-running corruption investigation into the business dealings of his daughter and her husband tarnished the monarchy's reputation.

Support for the king fell further when it was discovered he had been on a lavish elephant hunting trip to Botswana in April 2012, in the middle of Spain's financial crisis.

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