Spain lawmakers set to approve king's abdication

Spain lawmakers set to approve king's abdication
File photo of Spain's King Juan Carlos.

MADRID - Spanish lawmakers are set to approve Wednesday the abdication of King Juan Carlos, amid noisy protests calling for a republic, paving the way for his son Felipe to assume the scandal-hit monarchy.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy predicted Tuesday that "a great majority of lawmakers" would vote in favour of a law approved by his cabinet last week allowing the 76-year-old king to step down.

The bill has the backing of the ruling conservative Popular Party and the main opposition Socialists as well as the small centrist UPyD party which together have 300 seats in the 350-seat lower house of parliament.

Rajoy will defend the law during a debate in the assembly which is scheduled to get underway at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT), with the vote expected several hours later.

The law will also have to be approved by the Senate, Spain's upper house of parliament, which will vote on it on June 17.

Felipe, a 46-year-old former Olympic yachtsman, is then expected to be sworn in at a ceremony in two days later, although the date will only be officially finalised after the abdication law is approved.

Tiny left-wing and regional parties, including the United Left coalition and the Catalan separatist Catalan Republic Left, will vote against the law and instead call for a referendum on the future of the monarchy.

"The right of blood can't come above the people's democratic rights," United left leader Cayo Lara said Saturday during a demonstration in Madrid to demand a referendum on the future of the monarchy.

The vote on the abdication law has also rattled the Socialist party.

Party leader Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, who announced he was stepping down after the Socialists did poorly in last month's European parliament elections, backs the succession law.

But three Socialist lawmakers have asked for a free vote on the law.

Socialist party spokeswoman Soraya Rodriguez reminded her party's lawmakers on Tuesday that they had to vote as a bloc in favour of the abdication law.

Other parties, such as the conservative Catalan nationalist CiU party, plan to abstain from voting.

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