King Juan Carlos Announces Abdication

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After thirty-nine years on the Spanish throne, King Juan Carlos announces his abdication in a statement made by PM Mariano Rajoy, in a special bulletin broadcast to the nation this morning. The news is unprecedented and Mr. Rajoy did not provide a timetable for the King to step down. Given Spain’s relatively short period of constitutional monarchy the abdication will require the drafting of a new law to make the abdication legally binding. No reasons were given for the announcement but it is widely believed that a combination of factors lie behind Juan Carlos’ decision. In recent years the monarch’s health has become an issue for him. In 2010 a benign tumour was removed from His Majesty’s right lung and in April 2012 he underwent an operation for a triple fracture of the hip, following a fall during a hunting trip to Botswana. In September 2013 he underwent a further hip operation. Alongside any personal considerations, Juan Carlos’ standing with the Spanish people has suffered badly in recent years. The economic crisis set off by the global financial crisis of 2007 hit Spain particularly hard, putting an end an era of economic progress. Although Juan Carlos is not personally held to blame it was felt that the monarchy had become distanced from ordinary people and the scandal surrounding his son-in-law only made matters worse: the indictment of  Iñaki Urdangarin, Duke of Palma de Mallorca, for his alleged role in diverting public funds through the Noos Institute. The investigation is still ongoing but in the meanwhile the section on the official royal website on the Duke of Palma has been removed. King Juan Carlos’ recent woes have pushed to the background his role in bringing Spain to democracy after the death of the dictator General Franco and, certainly amongst the younger generation, the degree of support for the monarchy is open to question. Much will depend on how the abdication is dealt with, and of no less importance how the accession of Crown Prince Felipe will be utilised to present the monarchy to the Spanish people.