by Anda Bulhac
The Kingdom of Spain is one the few monarchic regimes left in Europe nowadays, a tradition dating back more than six centuries, with short periods of republic (first Spanish republic, between 1873 – 1874, and a second republic, between 1931 – 1939), and Francisco Franco’s dictatorship (1939 – 1975). Throughout all this period, kings belonging to different royal houses, such as Trastámara, Habsburg, Bourbon, Bonaparte, Savoy, have taken further the monarchic tradition since 1479 until present times, with the short periods of other regimes, as previously mentioned. Even though it is useless to note that times have changed and that monarchy does not occupy the same position in people’s perspective or scale of values as it did three or four centuries ago, in comparison with other European monarchies, the Spanish one registered the lowest levels of acceptance since the 15th century, which seriously threatens its position.
19th of June 2014 has become a historical date for Spain: after 39 years of reign, the king Juan Carlos left the throne for his son, Felipe the 6th, who was crowned early in the morning, after his father had retired from the throne on Wednesday, at midnight. Surely no one expected this to happen, neither the Spanish society, nor the international one, even though the royal house has been succumbed by scandals of corruption and protests all around Spain in the last 2 years.
I have had the chance to live these effervescent events in the last two years, being a part of the Spanish society, as a Romanian student who came to Madrid in order to continue her studies, and also driven by a certain admiration and decision to start all over again in Spain, in terms of studies, job, life, friends and all that the immigration process involves. The society I have found when I came back in 2012 was visibly different than the one I had left as an Erasmus student in 2010. I have to admit that the problem of any immigrant is that, independently of his will, he leaves his past in his native country, with a certain degree of hope about what is to come in the adoptive country, especially when the experience in a foreign country resumes only at an Erasmus scholarship.
The Madrid I once knew was now a city a bit more similar to the East European ones, in terms of what one can read on peoples’ faces, which is unusual, generally speaking for Western Europe, moreover if it’s applied to the Spanish society. Every two weeks there was a protest in the city center, organized by young people asking for reforms, changes or the simple retirement of the Government as a result of the strong recession that Spain still goes through, things which didn’t use to happen in 2010. Less people in the subways, as a result of a huge unemployment rate, far more people asking for money in bus stations, people whose main argument was that they no longer have a house or a job, or worse, neither. Having all this national economic context, the monarchy was the first target of the Spanish society to fight against, not totally without arguments, I would dare to say. News about king Juan Carlos taking part in trips to hunt elephants in Botswana, and pictures illustrating him proudly standing beyond his prey or the corruption case of his son-in-law, caught in a tax fraud and money laundering, were quite important arguments of the Spaniards.
With all this pressure on his shoulders, Juan Carlos decided to give place to his son, but I personally think it was more a matter of domestic internal affairs than a real desire of giving up the throne. The hero who had stopped in 1979 the cruel dictatorship of Francisco Franco in Spain, opened the country gates first to NATO and then to the European Union, in 1986, modernized the country, taking it on a similar level to top countries such as France and UK, was now blamed and asked to retire, after almost 40 years of reign. The message coming from the Spanish society was not only the desire for the king’s retirement, but also for the return to a republican regime.
All my colleagues of Master, within the University of Complutense, Faculty of Political Sciencies, thought that the monarchy should come to an end, considering the scandals it is involved in and the money that is spent in order to maintain a too costly tradition for the actual economic situation of the country. None of them was declaring himself as a pro-monarchy Spaniard, and all had plans of emigrating to countries which could offer them a job and most of them actually did so, leaving for UK, Germany or Austria. Thus, Spain has come back to what was happening in the 70’s, when, because of the difficult economic situation of the country, Spaniards were the ones who were filling in the low skilled working positions in Northern and Central-European countries. This gave King Juan Carlos I a round aspect to his reign: he took the country in 1979 with enormous economical problems, but left it in economic crisis. It was not because of his direct responsibility, but he did have a part in this, taking into account the scandals previously mentioned.
To sum up, during the last 6 years the Kingdom of Spain has faced a most difficult situation, not only from an economical point of view, but also from the social and political aspects. The King to be will have the tough mission of, on one hand, recovering the Spaniards’ support for the monarchic system, and on the other, to find viable solutions to the country’s tremendous economic situation, none of them being an easy task, an analysis which can be followed in an upcoming article.
You can read the second part here.
Anda Bulhac is a student of Master at the University Complutense of Madrid, Faculty of Political Sciences. She has graduated from the University of Bucharest, Faculty of History, in 2009 and continued with a Master at the same Faculty in International Relations. She has benefited from an Erasmus scholarship in 2010, in Madrid, and it then that she decided that she would like to come back to continue her studies, this time in Political Sciences. During her faculty years, she has collaborated with the Memorial of the Victims of Communism for 2 years, where she used to interview former political prisoners. At the moment, she is finishing her Master with the work: ”The Return Directive: a Step Back in Human Rights: A Global Analysis.”