By Hubert Kahl
MADRID — Spanish King Juan Carlos’ decision to abdicate cleared its first procedural hurdle Tuesday as the Cabinet approved a law that would allow the king to step down.
The monarch, 76, surprised the world Monday with his plans to step aside for a “younger generation,” — meaning his son, Felipe, 46, who is in line to take the throne as Felipe VI.
Although the general consensus is that the king should be able to step down if he wishes to do so, there is no provision for abdication under current law. The constitution refers to a special law for such cases, but the relevant measure was never passed.
Following the Cabinet’s approval, the measure must now head to the legislature. It should be passed by June 18, said Jesus Posada, the president of the Spanish parliament.
According to Spain’s El Pais newspaper, the measure should meet little resistance in parliament. An absolute majority of lawmakers has to back the change for it to pass.
The legislation does not specify what Juan Carlos’ status will be after giving up the crown, nor does it address whether he will continue to enjoy immunity from prosecution as a former king.
No date has yet been set for Felipe’s coronation. It can only be decided after agreement between the royal family and the government.
The palace has said it expects the crown prince to be coronated as Felipe VI within three to six weeks.
Although the abdication decision has yielded an outpouring of support for the royal family, it also has prompted thousands to protest, demanding a referendum on whether the monarchy — which was installed by former dictator Francisco Franco — should give way to a republic.
Juan Carlos has been on the throne since 1975.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Tuesday that the vast majority of Spaniards still support the monarchy. He said anti-monarchists should focus their efforts on a constitutional change, if that is their goal.
The leader of the opposition Socialists, Alfredo Perez Rucalba, said such protests are a regular part of democracy. But he said that, although his party has a republican tradition, it would continue to back the monarchy.