Anti-monarchy protests persist in Spain

Rallies calling for referendum to abolish monarchy still going strong, five days after king abdicated in favour of son.

The anti-monarchist movement arose out of frustration with corruption scandals and the economic crisis [AFP]

Thousands of protesters have continued to take to the streets of Madrid and other Spanish cities calling for a referendum to abolish Spain’s monarchy almost a week after King Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of his son.

On Saturday, dozens of left-wing political parties and citizens organisations came together in support of republicanism.

“Spain, tomorrow, will be republican,” they chanted, waving the red, purple and gold flags of the country’s second republic, proclaimed in 1931 then overthrown eight years later by General Francisco Franco at the end of the country’s civil war.

The anti-monarchist movement, born out of frustration with the political system, corruption, and unemployment, sees Spain’s royal family, which has seen its popularity drop after a spate of scandals over the last three years, as a main part of the problem.

“We don’t want them to think we are like babies, that we can’t decide what we want. We don’t want a king, we want to choose,” Mercedes Trujillo, an anti-monarchist campaigner, told Al Jazeera.

Monarchy support

Supporters of the monarchy have also held their own smaller rallies. They say a president cannot unite Spain like a king can.

If the People's Party and Socialist party think that Felipe has the confidence of the citizens, he should submit to a referendum.

by Pablo Iglesias, Podemos party leader

“[The king] has been for socialists, for populists, he has spoken to governors, presidents from all over the world no matter their ideology. A president of a Republic might have issues [with that],” Alberto Nunez, a supporter of the royal family, told Al Jazeera.

Forty-six-year-old Crown Prince Felipe is due to be coronated, probably on June 19, in a joint session of parliament, whose members, both in the ruling party and in opposition, overwhelmingly support the monarchy.

But a string of scandalas have caused a dramatic drop in the monarchy’s popularity, which has also been hit by the general loss of faith in Spain’s institutions that has accompanied its economic crisis.

Those feelings were evident in the results of the European Parliament elections on May 25 which saw a collapse in support for the two traditional parties.

Among the new left-wing parties was Podemos, a new party that emerged from the “Indignants” protest movement of 2011.

Calls for referendum

“We want to give a voice to the people. Why is it a problem to organise a referendum? Why is it a problem to give Spaniards the right to decide their future?” asked one of the party’s leaders, Pablo Iglesias.

“If the People’s Party and Socialist party think that Felipe has the confidence of the citizens, he should submit to a referendum,” Iglesias said.

Crowned in November 1975, Juan Carlos won wide respect for his role in building modern Spain.

But a corruption scandal struck his family in 2011 at the height of an economic crisis and undermined his popularity.

Years of economic crisis “have awakened in us a desire for renewal, to overcome and correct mistakes and open the way to a decidedly better future,” the king said in a televised address.

“Today a younger generation deserves to step into the front line, with new energies,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies