The story of Spain’s King Juan Carlos had the makings of a model monarch. He was anointed only two days after right-wing dictator Francisco Franco's death, and in his early years, he was seen as emblematic of a new Spanish era, helping transition the country to a new level of democracy and enjoying his place as a fixture among the world's most popular royalty.
At one point he was even hugely popular in some Latin American circles after telling Venezuela's Hugo Chavez to "shut up" during the Ibero-American Summit of 2007.
But while the Spain of 1979 allowed their royals to bask in adoration, the Spain of 2014 is somewhat less monarchy-minded. After the Spanish public learned their king was spending taxpayer money on an extravagant elephant-hunting safari in Botswana during one of the worst times for unemployment and general economic trouble the country had ever known, the tide quickly turned. Overnight, the popular king went from being a symbol of pride to a representation of the country’s economic problems.
On June 2, the king announced he would abdicate and relinquish the throne to his son Crown Prince Felipe. Immediately, the people began calling for a referendum between democracy and monarchy, leading to protests across the country ostensibly against the idea of blood rights in the modern age.
The hashtag #IIIRepublica, meaning the Third Republic, has been used for calls for the referendum. The "Second Spanish Republic" was instituted when King Alfonso XIII left the country after anti-monarchistic candidates won the municipal elections of 1931. Their party ruled until Franco took power in 1939. Franco ultimately let the exiled royal family (including Juan Carlos, who was born in Italy in exile) back into the country, which affects the system government to this day.
Across Spain, residents are calling for a renewed ability to vote on the heads of state, using the yellow, red and purple flag that flew over the Second Republic.
According to Twitter reports, the streets are filled with shouts of "España mañana será repúblicana!" which means "tomorrow, Spain will be a republic!" Photos of protests from everywhere from Madrid, Sevilla, and Mallorca to the Canary Islands could be seen on the social network, along with reports of protests at Spanish embassies abroad.
"We are screaming against the Borbons (the royal family), and we want a new chapter for our country," Twitter user Roberto Garcia Guerr from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria tweeted to Fusion. "There is no number two without a three."
According to the Guardian, more than 70,000 people have already signed an online petition calling for Spain's political parties to take advantage of the "historical opportunity to promote a public debate that will help regenerate democracy and determine the future of the monarchy."
Just last week, a small anti-monarchical political party called Podemos won 20 percent of the country’s European Parliamentary elections, causing some observers to note the timing of the king's abdication. The party had existed for less than 100 days, and many saw it as a sign of change in Spanish politics.
Check out some of the photos from the protests below:
Huge protests across Spain call for a Third Republic after the king abdicates #IIIRepublica #ReferendumYA https://t.co/1FuennXvP0— Neil (@NRBrizzle) June 2, 2014
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.