Thursday, April 15

FOCUS: Can the King of Spain restore faith in the monarchy?


Felipe has been caught up in a royal mess by sabotaging his efforts to clean up the image of the Spanish monarchy tainted with scandals, from accelerated Covid vaccinations to tax violations and shady financial deals by family members.

Somehow it has left you leaning towards the windmills. Previous controversies led him to cut off his own father’s allowance, among other steps, but now more may be on the way as he seeks to balance
family concerns with understandable outrage in Spain.

Last week, his father, former King Juan Carlos, announced that he had paid off a debt of almost 4.4 million euros ($ 5.3 million) with the Spanish tax agency for the value of undeclared private jet flights. paid for by a Liechtenstein-based foundation.

It was the second tax deal of its kind in less than three months for Juan Carlos, who exiled himself to the United Arab Emirates in August as doubts grew about the origins of his fortune.

The former king is the target of three separate surveys of his financial affairs.

And on Wednesday the older sisters of King Felipe, Elena and Cristina, acknowledged that they were vaccinated against the coronavirus while visiting their father in Abu Dhabi, avoiding the line of immunizations in Spain.

The king’s spokesman emphasized that his sisters, like their father, were no longer officially part of the monarchy and therefore he was not responsible for their actions.

‘Protect the monarchy’

“He takes it the wrong way, logically … because like everyone else, he has a heart” but “his role is to protect the monarchy from the storm,” journalist José Apezarena, author of several books on Felipe, told AFP.

“It is clear to him that if he has to choose between family and monarchy, he will choose monarchy.”

After Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 in a context of scandals over his finances and his love life, Felipe VI ascended to the throne with the aim of restoring the prestige of the monarchy.

He immediately ordered an audit of the royal house’s accounts and issued a “code of conduct” for its members.

The following year he took away the title of duchess from his sister Cristina, who was implicated together with her husband Iñaki Urdangarin in a large case of embezzlement of public funds.

The couple was tried in 2017. Although the court acquitted Cristina, her husband is serving a sentence of five years and ten months in jail.

Last year Felipe gave up any future personal inheritance he might receive from his father and stripped him of his annual allowance of almost 200,000 euros, after new details emerged of his supposed shady deals.

The king could be forced to go even further, according to Pablo Simón, a political science professor at the Carlos III University of Madrid.

“Felipe VI does not have his family under control and his behavior represents a great reputational problem” for the monarchy, he said.

There will be more revelations about Juan Carlos’ questionable financial dealings in the coming years and Felipe “will have no choice but to erect a clearer firewall,” such as asking the government to withdraw his title as king emeritus, he added.

PM under pressure

The actual scandals also put the president of the socialist government, Pedro Sánchez, in an “uncomfortable situation,” Simón said.

In recent days, Socialist ministers have repeatedly praised Felipe as “exemplary” even when criticizing his father’s behavior, and the party supports the continuation of the monarchy.

But the scandals fuel arguments against the monarchy of the far-left Podemos party, the junior partner in Sánchez’s minority coalition government.

Podemos, along with the smaller Basque and Catalan separatist parties that help the government pass laws in parliament, are calling for a serious debate on the future of the monarchy.

Sánchez in December vaguely referred to a “roadmap” to renew the Crown “in terms of transparency and exemplarity.”

If a debate were to open about the future of the monarchy it would lead to “the fracture of the majority that supports the government,” Simon said.



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