Magazine article Geographical

Spain

Magazine article Geographical

Spain

Article excerpt

As unlikely as it might seem, an elephant-hunting trip in Botswana has provoked calls for a head of state to abdicate and unleashed a constitutional crisis. In April, photos of King Juan Carlos of Spain posing beside a dead elephant, provoked an angry response in Spain and beyond.

Notwithstanding his triumphant pose, the monarch, who is in his 70s, actually injured himself during the hunting trip. He also happens to be the patron of the Spanish branch of WWF. To make matters worse, news also broke that the king's grandson shot himself in the foot in an accident in Spain.

The incident has thrown an awkward spotlight on the king's privileged lifestyle and personal choices. Its timing is unfortunate, given that the Spanish economy (the fourth largest in the Eurozone after those of Germany, France and Italy) is undergoing a painful series of public-sector reforms and government spending reductions. Five million Spaniards are out of work, borrowing costs are high and there is a real fear that the country's recession could deepen.

Centre-left parties have called for the king to abdicate and demanded greater access to the royal accounts, especially those that relate to overseas trips. It has been reported that the royal household's budget--about 8million [euro]--has faced a cut of only two per cent at a time when government departments have had to reduce expenditure by 15-20 per cent.

In the face of outrage over royal spending, the political party United Left called for a referendum on the future of the monarchy, and the possible return to a republic. The Spanish prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced he would hold talks with the king when he leaves the Madrid hospital in which he's been treated. Interestingly, and clearly mindful of public opinion, the king has issued a public apology for the trip--the first ever made by the king.

This high-profile criticism of Spain's monarch sits uneasily with an individual who is generally highly regarded in the country. Before the death of General Franco in November 1975, Spain had been without a monarch for nearly 40 years. In 1978, Juan Carlos was crowned king of Spain and recognised as the embodiment of the Spanish nation.

He was widely credited with guiding the country's transition from an authoritarian regime to a parliamentary democracy, his presence helping to highlight Spain's journey from relative Cold War isolation to a major EU and NATO power during the 1980s. …

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