This Article explains why Felipe must go or face the challenge of a radical turnaround in governance. Felipe is the son of King Juan Carlos I, the Monarch of Spain since Spain transitioned to democracy from Franco’s dictatorship in the aftermath of his death on November 20th 1975.
I was born in 1976. Felipe was then nine years old. I grew up watching two public channels, that’s all there was to watch. Television programming would conclude at around midnight. The national anthem along with images of the Royal Family would put an end to the daily broadcasting, a national anthem which coincidentally has no lyrics. It seemed obvious to live in a Kingdom and have a Royal Family. I was only a kid. Today I wonder why we as a people should be represented by a King internationally and whether there might be a better form of representation.
Spain woke up from the nightmare it lived during the three year brutal Civil War on April 1st, 1939. The nationals had won the war. General Francisco Franco Bahamonde would become the new caudillo until his death. Hundreds of thousands had been killed on either side during the brutal conflict which involved the participation of Italy, Germany and the Soviet Union. The reds had lost. The Spanish Second Republic had only lasted five years since its inauguration in 1931. A majority of reds were republicans, who either had to leave the country or live repressed particularly during the first third of Franco’s dictatorship, the most virulent and fascist stage of his rule.
King Alfonso XIII was Juan Carlos’s grandfather. He was King of Spain until his resignation the day the Spanish Second Republic was proclaimed on April 14th, 1931. He left Spain and established himself in Paris, dying in Rome one decade later. Juan was Alfonso’s sixth child and heir to the Spanish throne, which he ceded to his son Juan Carlos in 1977.
Spain’s transition to democracy in the aftermath of Franco’s death was possible thanks to the immaculate and impeccable job of two men: Adolfo Suárez and Juan Carlos de Borbón, who would become Spain’s first Prime Minister (President of the Government) in the aftermath of Franco’s death, and King of Spain respectively.
Many of the reds or republicans who lost the Civil War, of their siblings who lived the dictatorship and still maintained a republican identity, accepted that a democratic Spain take the form of a Monarchy because they acknowledged the role played by King Juan Carlos, and not because they were monarchists. The memories from the Second Republic were not positive, for it was a period of revolt and confrontation between the two Spains which concluded with the brutal and bloody Civil War. For most of its history Spain has been a Kingdom. Many republicans in Spain were and still are juancarlistas and profess a deep respect for the role played by the Spanish Monarch during the transition to democracy and beyond. It is not clear that in the absence of Juan Carlos and his extraordinary ability to conduct the transition peacefully along with Adolfo Suárez, Spain would still be a (democratic) Kingdom.
Felipe is the youngest child and only son of Juan Carlos and Sofia and the heir to the throne in Spain. He will become King once his father Juan Carlos dies. This is at least the theory. In reality with a convalescent Juan Carlos who undertakes surgery every other month, Felipe is increasingly taking over in official visits and summits. Before the eyes of many Spaniards, perhaps a majority, with the Monarchy at its lowest reputational level in decades, Felipe has accomplished little to nothing and his legitimate right to be one day Monarch is compromised. How unfair it is for many Spaniards who are today struggling to observe this vintage tradition still being maintained in twenty first century Spain. To inherit a position based on blood and not merit is the most representative example of the unfair phenomenon called “enchufismo”. Felipe has accomplished little to nothing and as a result Felipe must go or clearly take the lead and contribute to yet another democratic transition to better governance. Many Spaniards feel like we are living in a dictatorship of parties which is even worse than that of Franco.
Spaniards should demand to vote in a referendum the kind of regime –whether Kingdom or Republic- we should embrace. This referendum would then put a tremendous pressure on the Monarchy that would be forced to explain and justify its very own existence. Felipe would then be subject to demonstrating that his leadership and not that of a President of a Republic is most appropriate.
There are many reasons to support either arrangement whether Monarchy or Republic. There remain only twelve Kingdoms on European soil. A majority of states in the World have embraced a republic status since their independence, whether in America, Africa or Asia, particularly in the nineteenth (Latin America) and twentieth centuries (Africa). The debate has indeed a technical and pragmatic dimension as well as a sentimental one. Most citizens know whether they are monarchic or republican, for known or unknown reasons. We are indeed lacking a serious address of the reasons in support of either system, a debate that should be open at the earliest possible convenience.
France, Italy and Germany are Republics. However whereas the President of France is extremely well-known, the Presidents of Italy and Germany are not. Monarchies and Republics do coexist peacefully with one another on European soil.
Whereas Juan Carlos opposed the continuation of the previous Francoist regime as such and insisted that Spain transitioned into a better form of government, Felipe has missed an opportunity of publicly showing explicit opposition to the current kind of government which dominates and predominates in Spain, a democracy perfectly hiding the real dictatorship of two parties, an oligopoly of power which is besides impossible to break in, in order to break apart.
Corruption charges have touched almost every political leader in Spain. Yet impunity remains and dominates. Neither the King nor Prince Felipe has publicly denounced this calamitous form of public behaviour. What a mediocre show. Tired and fed up with the ongoing nonsense, many Spaniards are moving away from politics and royalty. What interest do they serve but their own?
This article does not, as a result, demand that Prince Felipe step out. It demands that Prince Felipe show a leadership ability similar to that his father was protagonist of forty years ago, which would in principle justify his right to become heir to the throne. Unless this happens Felipe must go and go for good along with his sisters and brothers-in-law who have shown little courage to acknowledge a sometimes calamitous use of the traffic of influence. Marrying a princess to do business is called “braguetazo”. That ain’t right I am afraid. In the country of picaresque and the culture of pelotazo many might still wonder “is there a princess left to marry?”