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INDEPENDENCE

Madrid to take legal action over Catalan parliament vote against the monarchy

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Thursday his government would take legal action after Catalonia's parliament voted for a resolution condemning King Felipe VI and calling for the monarchy to be abolished.

Madrid to take legal action over Catalan parliament vote against the monarchy
A protester sets fire to a photograph depicting Spain's king Felipe, during a protest earlier this year. Photo: AFP

Separatist parties and the left-wing, anti-independence En Comu Podem (“Together we Can”) party joined forces to vote for the resolution which condemned the monarch's “intervention in the Catalan conflict” and called for “the abolition of an outdated and undemocratic institution like the monarchy.”

Felipe VI is a divisive figure in the northeastern region since he made a stern speech in October 2017 denouncing the secession attempt by Catalan leaders.

READ MORE:  King's speech on Catalonia 'felt like a declaration of hostility'

Sanchez has until now trodden carefully as he negotiates with Catalan president Quim Torra in a bid to ease the situation in the region where roughly half of the population supports independence.

But on Thursday, he tweeted that “the resolution voted this afternoon in Catalonia's parliament that wants to reject and condemn the head of state is unacceptable.”

 

 “This government will adopt the legal measures at its disposal to defend the law, the constitution and state institutions,” he added, without specifying what the measures would be.

In a statement, the Spanish government added that the resolution was “a product of the loss of direction of separatist groups which, inexplicably, got the support of another parliamentary group.”

It blasted them for “using Catalan institutions to encourage the conflict and not to serve the general interest of all Catalans.”   

Without En Comu Podem, however, Catalonia's separatist government is in minority in the regional parliament due to a rift between two major pro-independence parties, casting doubt over the executive's viability.   

This is a major change from December 2017, when separatist parties got an absolute majority in snap regional elections called by then prime minister Mariano Rajoy after the failed secession bid in October.

READ ALSO: Spanish PM raps Catalan leader after unrest in Barcelona

 

 

ROYAL FAMILY

‘Alone and bored’: A year after exile, legal woes haunt Spain’s ex-king

A year after Spain's former King Juan Carlos went into self-imposed exile in the face of mounting questions over his finances, he remains under a cloud of suspicion that complicates his return home.

'Alone and bored': A year after exile, legal woes haunt Spain's ex-king
Juan Carlos I's close ties with Gulf leaders have allowed him to live in opulent exile in Abu Dhabi for a year. Photo: KARIM SAHIB / AFP

He announced on August 3, 2020 he was moving abroad to prevent his personal affairs from undermining his son King Felipe VI’s reign and sullying the monarchy.

But his choice of new home — the United Arab Emirates, where some of his business affairs triggered the scandals that tainted his reputation in the first place — only raised Spaniards’ eyebrows further.

Juan Carlos has told his son that he would like to return to Spain “but he won’t come back without the approval” of the royal household, said Jose Apezarena, the author of several books on Felipe.

And the position of the royals is that “until his legal problems end, he should not return”, Apezarena told AFP.

The 83-year-old former king is the target of three separate investigations over his financial dealings, including those linked to a high-speed rail contract in Saudi Arabia that was awarded to a Spanish consortium.

Prosecutors in Spain and Switzerland are looking into suspicions he received kickbacks for facilitating the deal.

The suspicions centre on $100 million (€85 million) that Saudi Arabia’s late King Abdullah allegedly deposited in 2008 into a Swiss bank account to which Juan Carlos had access.

The other two investigations concern the alleged existence of a trust fund in Jersey linked to Juan Carlos and the undeclared use of credit cards linked to accounts not registered in his name, a possible money-laundering offence.

‘Very bored’

Spanish monarchs have immunity during their reign but Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 following a series of health problems and embarrassing revelations about his personal life, leaving himself vulnerable to prosecution.

While he has not been charged with any crime, the probes have tainted his reputation as a leader of Spain’s democratic transition following the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco.

Outside of the Royal Palace in central Madrid, opinions were divided.

“He is being judged without any evidence, he should be able to come home if that’s what he wants,” said Pura Fernandez, 46, a bank worker.

But delivery rider Angel Galan, 27, was less sympathetic.

“He may have done some great things for Spain but if he committed irregularities I am not sad that he is gone,” he said.

While in exile, Juan Carlos has twice settled tax debts with Spanish authorities for a total of more than €5 million.

But he has otherwise kept a low profile at the villa on the island of Nurai off the coast of Abu Dhabi where he now lives.

“He is alone and very bored,” said Apezarena.

Photo: KARIM SAHIB / AFP

‘Not normal’

When reports emerged in February that Juan Carlos was in poor heath, the former monarch told online Spanish daily OKDiario he was “well, exercising two hours daily” in his only comments to the media since moving abroad.

Abel Hernández, a journalist and expert on the monarchy, said he believes Juan Carlos will return to Spain by the end of the year.

“He has not been charged with anything and has regularised his situation with the tax office. It does not seem normal that he remains outside of the country,” Hernández told AFP.

The scandals swirling around Juan Carlos have provided ammunition for those wanting to abolish the monarchy.

The far-left party Podemos, which is the junior partner in Spain’s coalition government, has called for a parliamentary investigation into Juan Carlos’s wealth.

Felipe, meanwhile, has sought to distance himself from his father.

Last year the king renounced his inheritance from Juan Carlos, and stripped the ex-monarch of his palace allowance after new details of his allegedly shady dealings emerged.

Polls show support for the monarchy has inched up since Juan Carlos moved abroad although a survey published Sunday in conservative daily La Razon found 42.9 percent of Spaniards feel Juan Carlos’s legal woes were hurting Felipe’s reign.

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