Monday, June 30, 2014

The Unsustainable Monarchy
 Presenting Royal Face as a Representation of State, in the tradition of portraits from the times of Velázquez and Goya.
Source: El Periódico del Golfo

Following up on my recent post, The Other Face of the Spanish Monarchy, about the tensions during the recent ceremonies proclaiming Felipe VI the new King of Spain, I translate almost in its entirety an analysis by Javier Pérez Royo of the fatal historic vulnerabilities of the Spanish monarchy. The opinion piece, titled Monarquía insostenible, appeared in El País on June 27. 2014:
The problem of the Monarchy is not the Republic. It comes from the Monarchy itself and from the political system derived from the Founding Laws of General Franco that made the Restoration possible.

The Spanish Monarchy lacks any legitimacy of its own. Its store of legitimacy was exhausted by Carlos IV, Fernando VII, Isabel II and Alfonso XIII [monarchs from the 17th - 20th centuries, three of whom were deposed]. As a result, it is a species threatened with extinction that, if it is to survive, must not make any mistakes. As long as members of the royal family did not commit any visible errors, the institution was not put into question. But when errors could not be hidden, all the alarms went off. And hence the abdication. The first threat to the Monarchy has not come from the Republic, but from within the royal household.

What throws the survival of the Monarchy into doubt is not so much its errors as tbe exhaustion of the political system used to carry out the Transition, which was designed to guarantee the Restoration. Its objective was the Restoration. The instrument for this was the transition from dictatorship to democracy. At the end of the 20th century, it couldn't have been done any other way. But the objective was the Restoration, to which end an instrument was designed: the type of democracy that would permit a Restoration without risk.

There is a continuity between the Spanish constitutions of 1845, 1876 and 1978. All three, which cover almost the entire history of constitutional government in Spain, were guided by a distrust in the protagonism of common citizens in the political management of the country. In all of them, the Monarchy was the expression of this lack of confidence....

This is the reason why Spain has not reformed its Constitution. In order to reform the Constitution, the principle of democratic legitimacy cannot be held back. If it is, the link between the legitimacy of the Monarchy's origins and the legitimacy of its exercise will erode to the point of disappearing, and the political system will collapse. That is what has happened here in the past and I'm afraid it will occur again.

And I don't think the new King can prevent it.... A parliamentary monarchy cannot survive if the political system over which its is erected is rotten and, as a consequence, loses its legitimacy. Juan Carlos I and Felipe VI don't have the same responsibility that Alfonso XIII had for the decomposition of the First Restoration, but their position is almost as unsustainable.
But in reply to this, it should be pointed out that there are no major revolutionary movements taking violent action in the streets as in the time of Alfonso XIII, and none of the massive popular demonstrations that pushed along the democratic process during the Transition. The Monarchy can coast on a great deal of inertia for a good while yet, as can the political system with its endemic corruption scandals. People complain, but the government has not served up cadavers and violent repression as during the time of Alfonso XIII. Police have started charging demonstrations and swinging clubs. I hear they are preparing water cannon. Rubber bullets are infrequent and I haven't seen any tear gas. And demonstrations are still tiny.

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