King Juan Carlos signs the law that ends his 39-year reign

Madrid rolls out massive security operation for Felipe VI’s coronation

Juan Carlos and Prince Felipe during the signing ceremony.
Juan Carlos and Prince Felipe during the signing ceremony.JUAN MEDINA (REUTERS)

King Juan Carlos has signed his last bill into law as Spanish monarch: the one establishing the rules of his own abdication.

The historic signing took place at 6pm on Wednesday at Madrid’s Royal Palace in the presence of Queen Sofía, Crown Prince Felipe, his wife Princess Letizia and their two daughters, Leonor and Sofía. In all, over 160 guests attended the event, including former Spanish prime ministers Felipe González, José María Aznar and José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, and the Vatican’s envoy, Renzo Fratini.

However, one notable absence was Princess Cristina, Juan Carlos’ youngest daughter, who is involved in a corruption investigation into the business dealings of her husband Iñaki Urdangarin. Cristina will not be there at her brother’s coronation, either.

Meanwhile, the government has begun rolling out massive security measures in preparation for Thursday’s coronation ceremony in the capital.

No foreign head of state will attend the coronation ceremony

Security levels in Madrid will be similar to those seen a decade ago when Felipe married Letizia Ortiz. The National Police will deploy 4,300 officers, including 120 snipers on the rooftops along the entire route between Madrid’s Royal Palace and Congress, where the ceremony is to take place.

The city’s airspace will be closed off to prevent aircraft from flying over the motorcade, while 40 special agents have been examining around 500 kilometers of underground tunnels close to the route in search of explosives.

A police dog unit has also been working to check for bombs in trash cans, parked vehicles and sewers. The municipal police will also have a significant presence.

Princess Cristina, Juan Carlos’ youngest daughter, was absent because of her involvement in a corruption probe

The government is also pushing through fast-track legislation to provide the outgoing monarch with top legal security of his own. On Friday, the day after the coronation, the ruling Popular Party will try to push through legislation to provide Juan Carlos with protection from lawsuits once he loses his complete immunity as head of state. Under the new rules, the outgoing monarch will be protected from claims in the lower courts and may only be tried by the Supreme Court. Until now, this kind of aforamiento only extended to beneficiaries’ public work, not to their private lives as well.

Juan Carlos, 76, has decided not to personally attend the coronation ceremony on Thursday so as not to take the spotlight away from his son. Later, he and his wife Sofía will join the new king and queen in the Royal Palace to wave to the crowd in the Plaza de Oriente.

No foreign head of state will attend the ceremony. The royal palace has justified this absence on a lack of time and space.

The new monarchs, Felipe VI and Letizia, will continue to live in the same house inside the premises of La Zarzuela Palace, around 1,000 meters away from the official royal residence.

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