Political controversy is growing in Spain over the sudden announcement that King Felipe VI will not oversee the appointment of new judges this week. Usually, the Spanish monarch takes part in the annual event, set this year for September 25th in Barcelona. However, the unexpected decision of Felipe VI to withdraw has led to questions over the intentions of Spain’s politicians.
Every year since 1987, the Spanish Head of State has overseen the ceremony which sees newly qualified judges receive their accreditation. As the Judicial School where the judges train is in Barcelona, the ceremony usually takes place in the Catalan capital. Felipe VI has taken charge of proceedings every year since his accession in 2014. However, despite the Spanish Royal Household originally saying he would take part in this year’s event, it has now confirmed the King of Spain won’t be present.
The sudden change of plan has led to questions about whether the Spanish government had put a stop to his attendance. All royal engagements in Spain take place with the approval of the country’s executive. The turnaround has led commentators to ask whether the government, led by Pedro Sanchez of the Socialist Party in coalition with the left wing Unidas Podemos, has decided Felipe shouldn’t be there.
As the event approached, law officials across Spain took to social media to voice their unhappiness with the plan. Many uploaded an official portrait of Felipe VI to their personal accounts.
There were initial reports that security issues had caused the change of plan but that has now been dismissed. Newspaper commentators are laying the decision for the King of Spain not to attend the ceremony firmly at the door of politicians. Some are even seeing it as an attack on the power of King Felipe. However, speaking in the Cortes just hours after the news became public, the first Vice President of the Government, Carmen Calves, said only that ”there are decisions that are well taken”.
Felipe VI has had a difficult summer. As he began a tour of Spain to show his support for the country following the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, he was caught up in the controversy surrounding his father, Juan Carlos, who was accused of hiding money that came to him from a ail contract in a Swiss bank account. Continuing allegations about his financial affairs were described by Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, as ”disturbing”. On August 3rd 2020, Juan Carlos surprised many by announcing he was going into exile, having already left the country. It was later confirmed he was staying in the United Arab Emirates despite several of the allegations around him arising from his contacts in that region.
Since then, Felipe VI has seen questions raised about the future of the monarchy. After a few weeks of respite as summer came to an end, that debate is back.