Spanish Members of Parliament began the key session on Wednesday by approving the process for voting on the abdication of King Juan Carlos, with 311 votes in favour, 19 against and 6 abstentions.
The actual vote on the bill to approve the abdication of the 76-year-old king is expected to take place on Wednesday afternoon.
Before the vote, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy defended the abdication bill from the podium: “As there is no doubt over who the King’s successor is, we’ve not even had to add a comma to this new bill.”
“Spain’s political structure is not what we are here to talk about today.”
He also used the occasion to defend the king and the monarchy: "Spain is a parliamentary monarchy because that is what the Spanish people want,” said Rajoy.
"King Juan Carlos challenged himself to be a king for all Spaniards and he succeeded"
"He was handed the Crown under exceptional circumstances and he performed exceptionally," said the Spanish leader praising the king who led Spain back to democracy after nearly 40 years of dictatorship under Francisco Franco.
"Socialism isn't incompatible with the monarchy," said the leader of the main socialist opposition PSOE party, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, speaking after Rajoy.
"Spaniards aren’t subjects under the king, they’re citizens who ratified the monarchy under the constitution," he added.
But Rubalcaba also said the socialist party was not trying to hide its republican roots.
"This is not just about a generational handover, it should signify the beginning of a new era. But this requires effort from all of us, not only the king, " he said.
Rubalcaba was followed by Catalan nationalist CiU politician Josep Antoni Duran.
"The people in this Parliament have been excluding us from Spanish history for years,” Duran said, defending his coalition’s reasons for not supporting the King’s abdication.
"You’ve closed the door on us Catalans, and now you ask to be part of another transition,” said the Catalan politician in a speech which received only faint applause.
"I’ve spoken to Prince Felipe longer than any other politician. I can acknowledge he’s prepared and capable of being king. But I hope that from his very first day on the throne he addresses the Catalan issue," Duran concluded.
From the pro-republican United Left, the criticism of the monarchy was particularly intense. "The abdication is new blood for a decrepit dynasty," party leader Cayo Lara said.
"We've got every right in the world to call for a referendum," he said while party members held up placards calling for a vote on the future of the monarchy.
MPs from Spain's United Left party hold up placards calling for a referedum
"The debate today is about whether we want to strengthen democracy in Spain or whether we want to continue with this sometimes despotic system," said Lara.
"We simply want a referendum so that the citizens of this country can freely decide on what type of future they want.
Today we are talking about monarchy versus republic, and the right of blood or the right of the vote," said Lara.
Spain has seen protests around the country since King Juan Carlos announced his intention to abdicate on June 2nd, with thousands of people gathering in the city's streets and squares calling for a referendum on the future of the scandal-hit monarchy.