Spain’s prime minister defended the monarchy amid uproar over former king Juan Carlos’ flight into exile following a series of financial scandals
Pedro Sánchez said it would make it easier for King Felipe VI to reign if he took distance from his father, particularly when Spain was battling the coronavirus pandemic.
“During (the coronavirus) pandemic Spain needs stability and robust institutions more than ever,” he told a press conference.
Juan Carlos made the bombshell announcement that he was leaving the country on Monday, saying it was because of the “public repercussions of certain episodes of my private life”.
Mr Sánchez, the leader of the Socialist party, said “people not institutions should be judged”, in a reference to an investigation in Spain into Juan Carlos’ role in alleged bribes over a rail contract in Saudi Arabia.
Spain’s left-wing coalition government has been split over Juan Carlos’ decision to leave the country which critics claimed was ‘fleeing’ justice.
Irene Montero, the equality minister and a leading figure in the far-left Unidas Podemos, the junior partner in Spain’s coalition government, said: “That the institution (of the monarchy) itself endorses the decision of the King Emeritus to flee Spain puts the institution in a very delicate situation.
“It leaves the monarchy in a very compromised position, no one in Spain can separate the actions of king Juan Carlos from his position as monarch and therefore the Borbon family.”
Meanwhile, Spaniards were left wondering about the whereabouts of the man who ruled over them for nearly 40 years between 1975 and 2014, when he abdicated.
La Vanguardia newspaper reported the ex-king has set up home in the Caribbean, staying with friends in the Dominican Republic.
However, the country’s immigration office denied reports of his arrival, while El Confidencial newspaper claimed the former king was at a secret location in neighbouring Portugal.
A series of polls carried out by media organisations on Tuesday found most Spaniards believed Juan Carlos should have remained in the country to face any legal action.
An online poll carried out by the pro-monarchy newspaper ABC, 68 per cent of Spaniards thought Juan Carlos made the wrong decision.
Another survey for the left-wing website eldiario.es found 96 per cent said they were against the former king going into exile and only four per cent supported the move.
However, Pablo Montesinos, an MP with the conservative People’s Party, said: “We call for unity around the head of state and the constitutional monarchy, today more than ever we must be at (the king) Don Felipe’s side.”
The fall of a monarch – who was once respected for ushering in democracy after the death in 1975 of dictator General Francisco Franco- began in 2018 in Switzerland when a prosecutor started an investigation into the ex-king’s allegedly murky finances.
The prosecutor opened an investigation into Juan Carlos’s ex-lover and the former king’s lawyer and financial adviser, both based in Geneva. The Swiss investigation, probing possible money laundering relating to a $100million (£80million) gift to Juan Carlos from the King of Saudi Arabia in 2008, is still in progress.
Juan Carlos is also being investigated for the first time by Spain’s Supreme Court over his role in alleged bribes related to a high-speed train deal in Saudi Arabia.
In March, after The Daily Telegraph revealed that Juan Carlos and his son were both named as beneficiaries of a Panama-based fund started in 2008 with the $100m “donation”, King Felipe released a statement renouncing any financial inheritance from his father. Juan Carlos was also stripped of his royal allowance.