King Juan Carlos signs the document confirming his abdication. :: SUR
After recent health concerns and a range of scandals, King Juan Carlos has given up his role as Head of State after a reign of nearly four decades.
“I want the best for the country I have devoted my whole life to,” said the king, 76, on Monday. The decision was made in January, as a result of his desire “to bring a younger generation with new energy to the forefront of affairs”.
The news was made public on Monday morning by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy: “His Majesty King Juan Carlos has just informed me of his desire to renounce the throne and begin the process of succession,” stated Rajoy. “He has been a tireless defender of our interests and all Spaniards bear him a huge debt”.
The news comes as a surprise to many in Spain as the king has shaped the country’s recent history after being hand-picked by Franco to become Head of State following the dictator’s death. He was jointly responsible, along with Adolfo Suárez, for overseeing Spain’s transition to democracy in the late 1970s. He was also instrumental in stopping a military coup in 1981.
He has more respect among the older generation. However, the royal image has been tarnished following a corruption scandal surrounding his son-in-law. Then, in 2012 he was pictured standing in front of a dead elephant on a hunting trip in Botswana while the country was going through its worst economic crisis in decades.
Many began to question the need for a monarchy and by the end of 2012 the percentage of Spanish republicans rose to 37 per cent.
Juan Carlos will pass the title onto his only son, Felipe, who will be enthroned on June 18th. The prince, 46, is a former Olympic rower and has maintained a higher level of popularity than his father. He and his wife Letizia have avoided the scandals that have embroiled the rest of the royal family in recent years.
Juan Carlos told the nation that Felipe “has the maturity, preparation, and sense of responsibility necessary to take on the title of head of state and open a new era of hope which combines the experience and momentum of a new generation.”