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Spanish parliament approves succession from Juan Carlos to Felipe VI

The Spanish parliament has given the green light to King Juan Carlos' abdication, paving the way for a royal succession. The abdication has led to protests against the monarchy, but also a rise in support.

A debate in the Spanish parliament was opened by Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday, who defended the monarchy of Spain as "the best symbol of the unity of the state."

"Spain is a parliamentary monarchy with deep roots because the Spaniards want it to be so," Rajoy told the parliament.

The Spanish king

abdicated in favor of his son

earlier this month, saying he believed his heir, who would become Felipe VI, was ready for the job and the time was right for Spain to move on. The decision meant an end to the monarch's 39-year reign, but an act of parliament involving both the country's lower and upper houses is necessary for the handover of the crown to take place.

A law allowing the abdication was approved by the lower house with 299 votes in favor, 19 against and 23 abstentions.

Protests and popularity

During the debate, several smaller left-wing and regional parties called for a referendum on the future of the monarchy, with some holding signs demanding such a vote. There were also noisy anti-monarchist protests outside the assembly building.

The 76-year-old Juan Carlos is widely respected for guiding Spain's transition from the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco. Most notably, he appeared on television to denounce an attempted military coup.

More recently, though, a series of scandals have caused

a rise in anti-monarchist feeling.

They included revelations that he had been on an expensive elephant-hunting holiday at a time when the country's government was on the brink of a credit default. Earlier this year, his younger daughter Cristina was named as a suspect in an investigation into the allegedly corrupt business dealings of her husband, Inaki Urdangarin.

Since the king announced his resignation, support for the monarchy has grown by almost six percentage points since a previous poll in January, to almost 56 percent. The succession law would still have to be passed by Spain's upper house, the Senate, on July 17, for the handover of the crown to effectively take place.

rc/hc (AFP, AP)

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