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Felipe VI’s first year on the throne

Twelve months after Juan Carlos abdicated in favor of his son, Spaniards have given their new king a good grade, but he now faces the challenge of mediating political change

King Felipe VI has passed his first-year test with flying colors, according to Spanish citizens. A new poll by Metroscopia shows that 81 percent of Spaniards approve of the way the monarch has been performing his duties since his coronation on June 19, 2014.

Additionally, 78 percent feel that the Crown projects a positive image of Spain abroad, 70 percent believe the monarchy contributes to keeping democracy safe in times of crisis, 66 percent say the monarch plays his role in a non-partisan and impartial manner, and 63 percent think he brings stability to the Spanish state, regardless of government changes.

The situation suggests the need for a more audacity from all institutional leaders, including the king

There is no doubt that the king is well on his way to restoring the institution’s prestige and society’s confidence in its usefulness. It also bears reminding that Felipe VI took over from his father, Juan Carlos, when the latter’s popularity ratings were at their lowest, as was support for the monarchy as a whole.

Although Juan Carlos’ abdication came at an opportune moment, and was well designed and executed, Felipe VI’s reign began with a few uncertainties on the horizon that he has been able to clear up through hard work, a well-designed plan, a clear strategy to be more approachable to regular citizens, an effort at institutional renewal and greater transparency, in line with society’s new demands.

His wife, Doña Letizia, has also secured 74-percent citizen support for the way she has performed her own duties during her first year as queen consort. During this time, she maintained the activities she had engaged in as a princess, and added others such as representing Spain’s international cooperation action.

But the B+ grade obtained by Felipe VI in the first 12 months of his reign should not push him into complacency or into a comfort zone. When Juan Carlos decided to give up the throne and pass it on to his son, he said that the new times required new figures to deal with the changes demanded by Spaniards. Don Felipe took on this challenge in his proclamation speech, talking about “a renewed monarchy for a new time.”

When Juan Carlos decided to give up the throne and pass it on to his son, he said that the new times required new figures

Over the course of this first year, the king has initiated this renewal process, but it needs to be intensified, while Felipe VI has to act as the catalyst of change that people expect him to be.

It is true that the Constitution sets limits on the king’s role in a parliamentary monarchy, and that Felipe VI must not cross the red lines set for a monarch who reigns but does not govern. Yet in these times of profound political and social changes, it would be good for Don Felipe to step a little closer to that subtle line established by the law, and to exercise his constitutional functions as an arbiter and moderator of Spanish politics, as a representative of Spain abroad, and as the guarantor of Spain’s unity.

Prudence is a virtue – even more so in times of crisis and elections – but the current situation suggests the need for a little more audacity from all institutional leaders, including the king, who has earned the respect and appreciation of the Spanish people and the moral authority to reign with greater initiative.


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