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Institutions in crisis

The Crown’s inclusion in the Transparency Law is one of the reforms the Royal Household needs

The latest opinion poll carried out by Metroscopia for this newspaper shows the depth of the confidence crisis that is affecting all of the key institutions in Spain’s constitutional system. The political parties, national government and the parliament are all held in painfully low esteem. Just above the various political entities comes King Juan Carlos, who has lost much of the credit he once enjoyed with the public. For the first time in such a poll, there are more people who disapprove of the way in which he performs his duties than those who are in favor. The effects of the country’s economic crisis continue to undermine support for the political class while more trust is deposited in the civil society movements that serve as vehicles for the public’s concerns.

This is the context in which the subpoena of Princess Cristina — in the Nóos corruption case that centers on her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin — has come about. This fact, now challenged by the prosecutor in the investigation but which occurred after the opinion poll was carried out, will inevitably take a further toll on the image of the head of state, until recently one of the most highly valued of Spain’s institutional figures. Even worse than the legal development in itself is the brouhaha surrounding it — from those who argue unfairly that the targeting of the infanta undermines the king’s authority, to others who attack the investigating judge for seeking to put himself in the spotlight. Calm is what is most needed right now, even though the atmosphere is hardly conducive to any such appeal.

Amid such a panorama, Prince Felipe’s reaction must be applauded. As soon as the judicial development affecting his sister became known, the heir to the throne publicly defended the judiciary’s independence. This move by the crown prince served in some measure to heal the damage caused by the Royal Household’s explicit support for the prosecutor’s appeal against the judge’s decision to name Doña Cristina as a suspect. A country worthy of respect cannot be one where passions hold sway over good judgment. If a judge considers that there is sufficient evidence to subpoena the princess, it is his duty to do so. Likewise, the prosecutor is within his rights to dispute this resolution. A court will decide who is right and this part of the Nóos investigation will either proceed or be shut down, as is to be expected under the rule of law.

Legal vicissitudes aside, the survey shows that there is a fault line developing between the public and the ruling class, including the king himself as chief representative of the monarchy. Don Juan Carlos has always enjoyed the support of the two main parties, the Socialists and the Popular Party, which are precisely the two groupings most held at fault for the country’s ongoing economic and political woes. Apart from the corrosive impact of the crisis, the monarch has committed certain errors that, together with the judicial investigation into his son-in-law that has now extended to his youngest daughter, explain to a large extent the institution’s fall from grace.

In order to recover lost prestige and go back to playing a key role within the stability of Spain, the Crown must modernize itself. For this reason, the news that the Royal Household is to be included within the institutions covered by the draft Stability Law is to be welcomed. The end of the hesitations on the part of the government in this regard must now help to establish the monarchy as an institution that the citizens view as open to public scrutiny.

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