SPANISH POLITICS

King calls for end to “scourge of corruption” in speech made at opening of parliament

Monarch also makes reference to need for dialogue in wake of 10-month political impasse

King Felipe VI officially inaugurated the XII legislature in Spain’s Congress of Deputies on Thursday, calling for “the regeneration of public life,” as well as dialogue and “respect for the democratic institutions of the law” during his speech. “Let us dignify public life and lend prestige to our institutions,” the monarch added, at what was his first appearance in parliament since he became head of state.

King Felipe with his family in Congress on Thursday.
King Felipe with his family in Congress on Thursday.Chema Moya / EFE

The opening of parliament comes after Popular Party Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was recently voted back in to office, ending 10 months of political deadlock caused by two inconclusive general elections, in December and June, and which saw Spain’s main parties unable to reach a coalition or investiture deal. In the end, Rajoy was voted back in as PM thanks to the support of emerging center-right party Ciudadanos, and the abstention of the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) in the second round of voting, at which just a simple majority was needed.

The king’s speech on Thursday made reference to the need for “democratic regeneration”

The king’s speech on Thursday made reference to the need for “democratic regeneration,” referenced Spain’s territorial conflicts (such as Catalonia’s ongoing push for independence), and the ongoing economic crisis. He called for a “strengthening” of the welfare state, “because that has been, together with families, a basic pillar of social protection during these last years.”

With reference to the ten-month political impasse, the king said that “the governing crisis was resolved, in the end, with dialogue, responsibility and also generosity.”

He also had some words about corruption, which has blighted Spain’s political parties in recent years, and is currently in the headlines thanks to several high-profile court cases involving the PP.

Thursday’s speech was made to a Spanish Congress that has never been so fragmented

“Corruption,” he said, which has outraged public opinion throughout our country, must be fought with firmness, and has to become a sad memory of a scourge that we have beaten and overcome.”

The king, who came to the throne in 2014 after the surprise abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos, referred to “the ability to reach agreements, to achieve more pacts on basic questions; and the need for commitment from all in the general interest of solving our citizens’ problems.”

This call was made to a Spanish Congress that has never been so fragmented, thanks mostly to the emergence of leftist anti-austerity group Podemos, and Ciudadanos, both of which have attracted traditional PP and PSOE voters, essentially ending the two-party system that had been in place since the return of democracy to Spain at the end of the 1970s. At both elections this last year, the PP was the most-voted party, while the PSOE narrowly managed second place, closely followed by Podemos, and then Ciudadanos.

The king was accompanied in Congress on Thursday by his wife, Queen Letizia, and his daughters, the Princess of Asturias and the infanta Sofía.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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