Royal Watch Features
Royal pregnancy poses political dilemma for Spain
By Sinikka Tarvainen Sep 26, 2006, 15:11 GMT
Madrid - Spanish media are agog over the news that Crown Princess Letizia, 34, is expecting her second child, but the glossy photographs, smiles and congratulations hide a serious constitutional problem.
If the child due in May is a boy, Spain will find it increasingly difficult to dodge a long and complicated constitutional reform establishing the equality of the sexes in the succession to the throne.
Nobody is calling into question that King Juan Carlos will be succeeded by Crown Prince Felipe, 38, even if he has an older sister.
But with all the political parties agreeing that the constitutional principle of sexual equality must apply to the throne, what will happen with Felipe's children?
Felipe married television journalist Letizia Ortiz in May 2004, and the couple's first child Leonor was born in October 2005.
She is second in line to the throne after her father and could become the first female head of state in Spain since 19th century Queen Isabella II.
If, however, the couple's new baby is a boy, the 1978 constitution would give him precedence over Leonor.
Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's government has made the equality of the sexes one of its flagship causes.
None of the other parties oppose Spain following the example of liberal northern European countries such as Sweden or Belgium, where it is birth order and not sex that determines the right to the throne.
'The primacy of male succession should never have been written into the constitution,' constitutional expert Javier Perez Royo says. 'It contravenes the basic principle of sexual equality.'
The only problem is that the process of amending the constitution is very complicated.
Changing the rules governing the right of succession would require nothing less than two-thirds approval by the lower house of parliament and senate, dissolution of parliament, new elections, two- thirds approval by the new parliament and senate, and, finally, a referendum.
The government fears that the referendum could become a popularity test for the monarchy, which does not traditionally enjoy strong backing in Spain and whose current popularity is largely based on the personalities of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia.
The government is hoping to dodge the problem by submitting several constitutional amendments to the referendum simultaneously, but that could lead to problems with the opposition conservatives, who are against some of the proposed amendments, such as a reform of the senate.
Posing in the arms of her radiant mother, baby Leonor is still unaware of the political debates that will determine her future.
The best solution, many experts are suggesting, could be to put the issue on ice until Felipe becomes king and the question of his succession will become more current.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur