Spain's King stays silent...for now

King Felipe is expected to stay silent in the coming hours on the crisis engulfing his country. In the last few hours, the parliament of Catalonia has declared independence in a move that it hopes will lead to the establishment of a republic in the region. The government in Madrid, meanwhile, is preparing to take control of Catalonia. Felipe began October knowing that a disputed referendum was set to take place. He can never have imagined it would end with part of his country trying to break away from his crown.

On the afternoon of October 27th 2017, the Catalan Parliament voted by 70 to 10 in favour of declaring independence from Spain following a disputed referendum on October 1st this year. There were two abstentions in the vote. Soon afterwards, the Spanish government approved plans to impose direct rule on Catalonia which has been an autonomous region of the country for four decades. The details of that are being worked out now but they could see Catalonia's leaders, including its president Carles Puigdemont, being removed from office and Madrid taking control of finances and police in the region. Spain is in turmoil but Felipe won't be talking publicly - for now at least.

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It is an extremely difficult situation for the newest monarch in Europe to find himself in. Since the referendum, Felipe has made two speeches including an extraordinary televised address in which he defended the unity of Spain. However, he faced criticism then, and following a second intervention during an appearance at the Princess of Asturias Awards in Oviedo last week, for not making any comment on the way police tried to stop people voting during the referendum or referencing the fact that almost 900 people were injured during the day of the vote.

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Now there is growing expectation that the King of Spain will make some kind of declaration but, again, it is a difficult situation for him to navigate. His country is in turmoil and politicians from all sides are taking a hammering. It is in times like this that monarchies can be a neutral centrepoint. They can fly - or they can wobble. Felipe's next move will be crucial. The King of Spain is staying silent for now - but keeping quiet may not be an option for very much longer.


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