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A modern King respecting self-determination or a new Republic: the reactions from Catalonia

Catalan parties, business associations and other institutions have reacted  to the abdication of King Juan Carlos announced this Monday morning. All the left-wing parties except the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) – which is part of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) – have called for a referendum on the monarchy's continuity and the instauration of a Republic. In fact, a series of demonstrations were held in several Catalan cities demanding a new Republic. The other widespread reaction came from those not questioning the monarchy, although all of them ask for a "modern King." Instead, most of them ask Crown Prince Felipe to be sensitive to the Catalans' will to self-determination and they expect he will act as a mediator to enable a negotiated way out to the current political conflict.

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02 June 2014 09:21 PM

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ACN

Barcelona (ACN).- Catalan parties, business associations and other institutions have reacted  to the abdication of King Juan Carlos announced this Monday morning. All the left-wing parties except the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) – which is part of the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) – have called  for a referendum on the monarchy's continuity and the instauration of a Republic. In fact, a series of demonstrations were held in several Catalan cities demanding a new Republic, such as in Barcelona, were thousands of citizens were asking for the Republic. The other widespread reaction came from those not questioning the monarchy, although all of them ask for a "modern King." Instead, most of them ask Crown Prince Felipe to be sensitive with Catalans' will to self-determination and they expect he will act as a mediator to enable a negotiated way out to the current political conflict. Therefore, Catalonia will become one of the main challenges, if not the main one, for Felipe from his first day as King of Spain.


There have been many reactions to Juan Carlos' abdication in Catalonia. In fact, the change in the Spanish monarchy comes at a particularly sensitive time considering the political situation regarding the Catalan self-determination process. Therefore, many reactions have been related to this issue. For instance, Catalonia's main business associations wished all the best to the new King but asked him to be sensitive to the political claims from Catalonia.

The other large group of reactions have come from those who question the monarchy's continuity. Catalonia has been in fact one of the main republican centres in Spain, with a large part of the population not supporting the monarchy. Historically, the Spanish monarchy has backed the political and cultural repression of Catalonia's self-government institutions, language and culture. However, Juan Carlos has also been the first King to read a speech in Catalan in public and Crown Prince Felipe knows the language and has also read speeches in Catalan.

The Catalan President: the self-determination process "goes on"

The main reaction was that of the President of the Catalan Government, Artur Mas, who highlighted that the self-determination process "goes on". Mas, who is also the leader of the Centre-Right pro-Catalan State Coalition (CiU), running the Catalan Executive, asked "all the institutions of the State", including the Crown, for "respect" toward the will shared by a majority of Catalans to decide on their own future. In fact, other members of the CiU also asked the new King "to respect […] the will of Catalans" and be "aware" of Catalonia's problem. In fact, many are hoping that the change in the monarchy might send a flexibility message and will push towards a wide reform of the current status quo, enabling a self-determination vote in Catalonia.

The Secretary General of the PSC, Pere Navarro – who had suggested in February 2013 the abdication of the King, creating a big controversy – was "hoping" that this Monday's announcement will "open a new era" that should allow for a Constitutional Reform. The PSC and the PSOE are trying to push for this Constitutional change, which should offer a better accommodation of Catalonia within Spain but would deny Catalonia's right to self-determination and its nationhood status. Therefore, the PSOE's Constitutional Reform, which has been blocked by the governing People's Party (PP) so far, would not recognise Spain as a pluri-national country. For Spanish nationalists, this reform goes too far, and for Catalan independence supporters, this reform is not ambitious enough. In addition, the main business association, Foment, stated that a Constitutional Reform could make "all the sense" coinciding with the Crown's succession.

The People's Party (PP) in Catalonia praised Juan Carlos as "the King leading the restoration of democracy and the Transition" from Franco's regime. Furthermore, the PP criticised as "irresponsible" those who are "provoking demonstrations" against the monarchy.

Thousands demonstrate for the Republic's arrival

On Monday evening, thousands of citizens demonstrated in several Catalan cities against the Monarchy, asking for a referendum on setting up a new Republic. Barcelona's Catalunya Square has been almost entirely occupied by peaceful demonstrators. Catalonia has traditionally been one of the areas with the lowest support for the monarchy throughout Spain and today, all the left-wing parties except the PSC have asked for a referendum on the Republic.

The Left-Wing Catalan Independence Party (ERC), whose name in Catalan includes the word "Republican" (Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya), showed its "solidarity" with "Spanish Republicans." The ERC asked the King's succession to be decided through a referendum. The ERC supported the demonstrations scheduled on Monday evening. The Catalan Green Socialist and post-Communist Coalition (ICV-EUiA) did likewise. The ICV-EUiA considered the abdication as "an opportunity" to define "a new model of State" and rejected "an automatic succession." In this vein, the ICV-EUiA asked as well for a referendum on the republic. The radical left-wing and independence party CUP also backed the evening demonstrations and totally rejected the Spanish monarchy.

Historical anecdotes regarding Felipe VI

As a side note, the Crown Prince will reign as Felipe VI of Spain, swearing his new title in the coming weeks, in 2014. Felipe V was the King creating a Unitarian Spain, building the Spanish nation state, and abolishing Catalonia's self-government institutions and laws, and starting to persecute Catalan language and culture, back in 1714. On top of this, some people are saying that Felipe is going to become Felipe VI of Castilla but the Felipe V of Aragón, since there was never a Felipe I of Aragón – the Kingdom to which Catalonia officially belonged until 1714. There was a Felipe I of Castilla, who reigned in 1506, but the King of Aragón continued to be Fernando II, who reigned until 1516. Until 1714, the Kingdoms of Castilla and Aragón were separated realms, although they both belonged to the same Spanish Crown.

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  • Spain's Republican flag waving in Barcelona's Catalunya Square (by N. Julià)

  • Spain's Republican flag waving in Barcelona's Catalunya Square (by N. Julià)