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Thousands join anti-monarchy march in Madrid


Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Madrid on Saturday to demand a referendum to abolish Spain’s monarchy, just days after King Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of his son.


A wave of republicanism spread across the country only a few hours after the 76-year-old king announced his abdication on June 2.

On Saturday, dozens of left-wing political parties and citizens organisations came together to demand a referendum on the future of the monarchy.

If all goes to plan, King Juan Carlos’ heir, Crown Prince Felipe, is scheduled to be crowned on June 19. The coronation will be held in a joint session of parliament, whose members  both in the ruling party and in opposition  overwhelmingly support the monarchy.

But a spate of scandals over the past three years has caused a dramatic drop in the monarchy’s popularity. The economic crisis has also resulted in a general loss of faith in Spain’s institutions.

Those feelings were clearly demonstrated by the collapse in support for the two traditional parties during last month’s European elections.

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

“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.

Seeking ‘renewal’

In announcing his abdication, Juan Carlos said he hoped for a “renewal” of the monarchy.

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.

Although Felipe has been spared the opprobrium that has engulfed his father, he faces a daunting task in rebuilding the legitimacy of the crown.

Most of Spain’s new republicans are young and were not around when Juan Carlos took the throne on November 22, 1975. It was two days after Franco's death and the young king oversaw a dramatic period of transition to democracy.

Lately, the reign of the Juan Carlos has been marked by more scandal than political change. A corruption scandal struck the royal family in 2011 at the height of an economic crisis, undermining their popularity. The following year King Juan Carlos sparked fresh outrage by hunting elephants in Botswana while ordinary Spaniards struggled through a recession.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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