Spain is currently a constitutional monarchy. Juan Carlos, appointed by the law succession after the death of Franco in 1975, oversaw the transition from dictatorship to democracy. In 1982, his rule became almost entirely symbolic, though he commands great moral authority and is a very popular figure in the Spanish media and politics. His opinions and words are taken seriously.
Juan Carlos is now 72 years old and recently had a benign tumor removed, but speculation about his health is unclear. When he dies, his son Felipe, Prince of Asturias is destined to take over as symbolic head of the state. But in Spain there is resurgent cry for a republican style of government in Spain, like that of Second Spanish Republic, established in 1931 and fought for during the Spanish civil war. Republican flags were seen flying and strapped to the backs of demonstrators in Puerta del Sol, Madrid on Thursday night to celebrate its establishment 80 years earlier on April 14th, 1931.
According to a recent poll, 39% of Spaniards want Spain to be a republic, while 48% prefer the current monarchy. More supporters are from the People’s Party and more dissenters from the Socialist Party and left wing movements. Many people speculate, however, that it’s not the monarchy most people support, but Juan Carlos. It was Juan Carlos who facilitated a quick transition from dictatorship to democracy and the integration into greater Europe, but people have a more lukewarm opinion on the system of monarchy itself.
The younger generation is more in favor of a republic and more indifferent, or even hostile, to the symbolism of the monarchy. Indeed, a poll taken just 6 years ago, showed a 65% preference for the monarchy and 22% for the republic, a huge difference from today’s numbers. As time passes, the respect for the monarchy is likely to continue to decline. The death of Juan Carlos may be the moment at which a referendum is called to vote for the official establishment of a republic in Spain.