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THOUSANDS of protesters took to the streets of Madrid yesterday to demand a referendum to abolish Spain’s monarchy.
“Spain will be republican,” they chanted while waving the red, gold and purple flags of the country’s second republic, proclaimed in 1931 but overthrown eight years later by fascist General Francisco Franco at the end of the country’s civil war.
King Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of his son on June 2 and, within hours of the 76-year-old king’s announcement, thousands of republicans had gathered in Madrid and other cities across the country to demand a referendum on the monarchy.
And again on Saturday, dozens of left-wing political parties and broad organisations came together to demand “a referendum now” on the future of the crown.
Forty-six-year-old Crown Prince Felipe is due to be crowned on June 19 in a joint session of a parliament whose members, both in the ruling party and the opposition, have overwhelmingly supported the monarchy.
But about 20 per cent of voters supported anti-monarchist parties in recent elections for the European parliament and more than 70,000 people have signed an online petition urging Spain’s politicians to use this “historical opportunity to promote a public debate that will help regenerate democracy and determine the future of the monarchy.”
A poll conducted by the El Pais newspaper showed yesterday that most Spaniards want a say on the royals.
Nearly two-thirds called for a vote on whether to ditch the monarchy and return to its much-loved republican aspirations.
Although the king’s astute handling of the country’s democratic aspirations had won him broad support, a rash of scandals over the past three years has caused a dramatic drop in the monarchy’s popularity.
A corruption scandal struck the royal family in 2011 at the height of the economic crisis and undermined its popularity.
And the king sparked fresh outrage the following year by wandering off to hunt elephants in Botswana while ordinary Spaniards struggled through the recession.
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