Podemos General Secretary Pablo Iglesias has called for the Spanish people to free their country from monarchy.
Podemos is the second largest political party in Spain. Mr Iglesias made his call for a republic in El País, the second most read newspaper in that country.
In his opinion piece Iglesias comments that many who reisted the Franco dictatorship felt betrayed when negotiations with that regime led to its replacement by a monarchy. He acknowledge, however, that most citizens “were in favour of the political forces who had accepted (the Communist Party of Spain included), with a greater and lesser degree of enthusiasm, the central role of the monarchy in guiding the democratic process in Spain”. However, Mr Iglesias also notes that Adolfo Suárez, the first prime minister under the new regime, did not want to risk a referendum in which the people might vote for a republic.
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Pablo Iglesias with Spanish Prime Minister
In explaining continued support for the monarchy Iglesias writes that “The attempted coup of February 23, 1981, in spite of lingering doubts over the real role played by Juan Carlos, helped to consolidate the opinion that only the king could avoid a coup that would return power to the military”.
Now Mr Iglesias sees what the British might call “establishment” efforts to protect monarchy. He says that the newspaper in which he writes had said that the monarchy should not be put at risk by “electioneering or opinion polls”. And the Spanish Centre for Sociological Investigation had never included a question about monarchy in its surveys.
In comments of particular relevance to the UK he questions the newspaper’s claim that a monarchy can be as democratic as a republic. “Democracy would be deepened with a head of state who is elected to the role” he concludes.
Mr Iglesias adds that “The fact that the monarchy has become a symbol that increasingly appeals only to the more conservative members of the population while increasingly disturbing liberals and triggering outright rejection among a majority of people in the Basque Country and Catalonia, means that it is no longer a symbol of unity and harmony”.
“Our country” he writes, “now needs to be equipped with institutional republican tools, far removed from uniformity and Caesar-antics; tools that will represent fraternity; that will guarantee social justice and which will recognize the diversity of the people of Spain as a [collective] identity to be protected and respected”.
In his concluding call for his country to “mature democratically” and leave “divisive symbols” behind Mr Iglesias could be speaking to the people of the UK. Unfortunately it is unlikely that any British politician with his status will have the courage to deliver a similar message.