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Six key ideas on the abdication of the King in Spain

[02/06/14]

Julio Panizo, Protocol lecturer on UPF’s Master in Protocol and Public Relations, and very familiar with the Royal Family, runs through six key ideas concerning the abdication of King Juan Carlos I

The protocol in abdication: The Royal Family and the Government follow a strict and very detailed protocol regarding their actions when announcing the abdication of the King. Abdication is not yet regulated in Spain. The Parliament will therefore have to pass an Organic Law in order to do so, as set out in the 1977 Spanish Constitution. Panizo is convinced that as soon as tomorrow, the Government will approve the “already written” text of the Organic Law that must now be passed through Parliament as stated in the Spanish Constitution. This law will approve this abdication which will then enter into force on the day following its publication in the Official State Bulletin. This same day, the new King can be proclaimed in Parliament.

A hasty decision: The decision concerning the Abdication of King Juan Carlos I was taken in January, the month of his 76th birthday, according to the Royal household. The announcement was made today suddenly, when the Prince of Asturias was returning from El Salvador, where he had been attending the swearing-in ceremony of the new President of this Central American country, while Queen Sofía has a trip planned this week to New York to participate in the Unicef Executive Board meeting. “This decision was made months ago, but today we get the feeling that the announcement was made in a rather hasty way, because it is not really necessary to make it on a day in which the Prince is not back yet and in a week when the Queen will be going away.”

The “non”-resignation of Rubalcaba. Julio Panizo indicated there was a possibility that Rubalcaba may decide not to resign immediately following his defeat in the European elections in order to enable the King’s abdication process to move more swiftly, along with the corresponding Parliament approval. “Rubalcaba, knowing the King’s decision, may delay his resignation until the extraordinary congress to be held on 19 and 20 July. The idea that the PP and PSOE could be set to lose the absolute majority that they have had, either together or separately, for the last 38 years, may also have accelerated the Royal Family’s decision, in the wake of a possible anti-monarchist or republican majority in the Congress of Deputies in the next elections.

The Urdangarín case. According to Panizo, although it may be true that the Iñaki Urdangarín case has had a negative effect and tarnished the image of the Royal Family, a possible guilty verdict would affect the King’s image much more than Prince Felipe’s. “The Royal Family had managed to keep Prince Felipe well away from the Urdangarín case at all times, something they have done intentionally in order to preserve his good image, bearing in mind that he is soon to become the new King of Spain.” 

Very little history of Abdications. Abdication is quite exceptional in the Spanish Crown, and in the past centuries it has only happened six times, the last of these being the demission in 1941 of Alfonso XIII in favour of his son Juan de Borbón, father of King Juan Carlos. “In Spain, we don’t tend to abdicate, it is rather a strange concept to us. It is likely that it feels stranger here than to the rest of the European countries, where recently there have been abdications and which are a pretty normal occurrence, such as those of Holland or Luxembourg.

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