The Basque country takes the initiative. The Basque Parliament will vote on an initiative, submitted by the Elkarrekin Podemos-IU group, aimed at promoting a referendum on the Spanish monarchy throughout the state. The proposal, if approved, will urge the Spanish Parliament to "initiate a constitutional reform process" so that citizens can freely choose whether they want to maintain the Bourbon monarchy or establish a republic. It is a non-binding bill, but it was presented on Thursday, according to elDiario.es, taking advantage of the fact that it is former Spanish king Juan Carlos I's birthday. The Basque parliament is not expected to vote until February, when ordinary sessions resume after January, which is considered to be a non-working month.
The Podemos-IU coalition only holds 6 of the 75 seats in the Chamber, and will therefore have to seek broad support in order to succeed. On a previous occasion, in the autumn of 2020, EH Bildu also supported an initiative that included an item calling "to end the monarchy", but the 21 seats of the nationalist left were also insufficient. The groups will have to convince the Basque Nationalist Party (PNB), which holds the majority in the Basque Parliament with 31 seats, to also support it. Despite dissociating itself from the 2020 initiative, claiming that the autonomous chamber was not the right place for such a debate, the party defended the fact that the Basques do not have a monarch. "The kings of Spain are not our kings. Neither the king, nor the queen, nor the son, nor the father", it claimed. The Basque president himself, Iñigo Urkullu of PNV, made clear his distrust about the legitimacy of the institution, and challenged Felipe VI by urging him to stand for a referendum. Therefore, this time it seems possible that the Basque nationalists will vote in favour of the initiative so it can be submitted to the Spanish Parliament. Once in the Congress of Deputies, it will be up to the PSOE to bring it to a successful outcome.
In the draft motion it is recalled that on 23rd July 1969, Francisco Franco appointed Juan Carlos as his successor as head of state, and that two days after the dictator's death, on 22nd November 1975, he was crowned king "by the francoist Parliament". It also states that the 1978 Spanish Constitution defines the Spanish state as a parliamentary monarchy, but "it was voted en bloc, and citizens were not able to decide on a fundamental aspect of their political system such as the type of government". "At that time, the choice given to the citizens was democracy or dictatorship, and they were never asked what type of government the new democratic state should have," argues the coalition in its initiative. The text goes on to say that therefore “one cannot speak of a fully-fledged democracy as long as the title of Head of State is hereditary", hence the need to reform the constitution and hold a referendum on either monarchy or republic.
The threat of the Constitutional Court?
In Catalonia, the debate on the monarchy is not new, nor is judicial interference: in October 2020, the Parliament approved a proposal that censured the role of Felipe VI and called for the abolition of the Royal House. The Spanish Constitutional Court quickly invalidated the initiative on the grounds that the Catalan Chamber had no competence to pass the proposal, and even warned the Catalan Parliament's Bureau that it should prevent the submission of any other initiative that referred to the monarchy. The Bureau, headed by Roger Torrent, then president of the Catalan Parliament, was tried for disobeying the Constitutional Court, although just a few weeks ago all the members under investigation were acquitted. However, given that the Basque initiative is a non-legislative and non-binding initiative should facilitate its processing without any judicial obstacles.