MADRID (AP) – King Felipe VI, Spanish lawmakers and the entire country on Tuesday remembered 40 years of an attempted coup that failed to derail the country’s peaceful transition to democracy, but the anniversary was overshadowed by the absence of a former monarch now beset by financial scandals.
Emeritus King Juan Carlos I was not invited to Tuesday’s act at the same Parliament building in central Madrid that was taken at gunpoint in 1981 by more than 100 civil guards, holding the entire lower house hostage.
Tuesday’s ceremony, organized by the president of the Congress of Deputies Meritxell Batet, was also boycotted by seven of Parliament’s 17 political groups, including the Basque and Catalan nationalist parties, who oppose any participation of the Royal Household in the event.
Juan Carlos was originally anointed by the dictator general Francisco Franco as his successor at the head of Spain, but the monarch – according to the general conclusion of historians – played a decisive role in the consolidation of Spanish democracy and, in particular, in thwarting the 1981 rebellion led by defenders of the return to Francoism.
The coup was declared a failure when the king appeared on television to support the new democratic government. Before his televised speech, the country held its breath during the 18-hour ordeal in Parliament.
“Millions of Spaniards have that night engraved in their memory,” said Felipe, “especially the memory of how, from the anguish and concern about what could happen, they felt the tranquility of seeing how freedom and constitutional order prevailed” .
In the current monarch’s first public reference to his father since Juan Carlos moved to Abu Dhabi more than half a year ago, Felipe praised the ex-king’s condemnation of the attempted coup, saying: “his firmness and authority were decisive for the defense and the triumph of democracy ”.
Harassed by a series of scandals and declining popularity, Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 and retired from public life in 2019. Last year he moved to the United Arab Emirates just as new revelations of financial irregularities emerged and official investigations were opened. in Switzerland and Spain.
The investigations have caused unrest in the left-wing coalition government led by the Socialists, giving ammunition to those who want the abolition of the monarchy.