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Spain lawmakers approve protections for former king

[JURIST] Spanish lawmakers [official website] on Thursday approved controversial new legal protections for former king Juan Carlos after he lost his total immunity when he abdicated the throne last week. After leaving the throne [JURIST report] for his heir, King Felipe VI, Juan Carlos left himself open to possible legal actions, including a paternity suit [Reuters report] brought by a man claiming to be his son. However, Popular Party politicians added amendments to a pending judicial reform bill to assure Juan Carlos judicial privileges. Under the bill, only the Supreme Court will be qualified to hear cases against Juan Carlos. The bill also extends the privilege to Spain's new queen, Felipe's wife Letizia, and their eight-year-old daughter and heir Leonor, Princess of Asturias. The Popular Party, which holds a majority in Spain's parliament, pushed the amendments through despite reluctance from opposition lawmakers, who believe the ex-king should be accountable like any other citizen. The bill passed with 184 votes in favor [AFP report], 109 abstentions and 32 votes against. It will now go to the upper house for its approval.

King Juan Carlos [BBC profile], on the throne since 1975, rejected the dictatorship of his predecessor, General Francisco Franco, and transitioned the country into a constitutional monarchy. He is best known for having paved the way [WSJ profile] to Spain's current democratic system [JURIST report], which effectively stripped the king and his successors of all executive power in favor of a secondary political status. Juan Carlos was instrumental in helping to thwart a 1981 military coup that sought to bring back a Franco-style regime. With close allies of the king having led the coup attempt along with more recent royal family scandals and national economic hardships, the king's popularity has been compromised over the past several decades. The 78-year-old king has also been struggling with declining health due to old age and deficits suffered from a number of personal accidents and surgeries. The king hopes that his son, 46-year-old Prince Felipe, can rehabilitate the scandal-ridden monarchy during this time of national economic strife and general dissatisfaction with Spain's political nobility.

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