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Spanish Republicans call for referendum on monarchy after king’s abdication

AFP

Thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of some 50 Spanish cities on Monday, calling for a referendum on the abolition of the monarchy in the wake of King Juan Carlos’ surprise abdication.

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The biggest rallies were held in the capital, Madrid, and other major cities like Barcelona, where participants waved the red, purple and yellow republican flags, chanting “Spain, tomorrow, will be Republican”. King Juan Carlos has said he plans to hand power to his son, Crown Prince Felipe.

The demonstrations were called by far-left parties after an online petition on the issue garnered more than 70,000 signatures.

Once one of the world’s most popular monarchs, the 76-year-old Juan Carlos – who helped smooth Spain's transition to democracy in the 1970s after the General Francisco Franco dictatorship – has seen public support plummet in recent years after a string of corruption scandals and gaffes hit the royal household.

While the monarch himself angered Spaniards by taking part in a luxurious elephant-hunting trip in Botswana in the midst of Spain's financial crisis, his daughter, Princess Cristina, and her husband, Inaki Urdangarin, are currently under investigation in a graft case.

“This is the time. We can't wait any longer because it's the moment to reflect on the system. This is when it could change that they at least give the option for the people to elect what they want for their government in the future,” anti-monarchy protester Daniel Rias said.

The Madrid protest was held in the vicinity of the Royal Palace, forcing police to close off all public access to it.

Juan Carlos was crowned two days after the 1975 death of dictator Franco who had ruled the country since the civil war ended in 1939.

The king announced his abdication on Monday, saying the monarchy was in need of "a drive for renewal, to overcome and correct mistakes and open the way to a decidedly better future."

He said his 46-year-old son Prince Felipe is ready for the post and will “open a new era of hope combining his acquired experience and the drive of a new generation”.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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