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article imagePeoples' referendum moves through Spain

By Anne Sewell     Jun 15, 2014 in World
Madrid - A peoples' referendum is currently sweeping through Spain. It started on Saturday June 14, and runs through to June 19 to ask Spaniards their opinion on how they would like their country to be run.
Just days before the coronation of Spain’s new King, Felipe VI, an unofficial peoples’ referendum is asking Spaniards their opinion on the subject. Monarchy or Republic? What would they prefer?
Since King Juan Carlos I announced his abdication from the throne recently, tens of thousands of Spaniards have been hitting the streets in huge protests, calling for a referendum to decide their own future.
Immediately after the protests began, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy told the country that such a referendum would be illegal and that they would need to change the constitution if they wanted to be rid of the monarchy.
Various types of pressure have been used to try and influence the situation, including an online petition for a referendum on Avaaz which received 354,435 signatures in just a few days.
After this the group Equo launched a campaign with the slogan "democracy restart" to try to stop the deputies voting "against our ability to make decisions." On their website they included a long list of Twitter users who flooded their MPs with demands for democracy timelines.
Now, however, it has been decided to run an unofficial, and totally legal, referendum amongst the people. ¡Democracia Real Ya! (Real Democracy Now!) is one of the dozen or so groups involved in the project and a representative, Kike Castelló, told the Guardian, "It seems absurd to us that in a democracy nobody is asking the citizens if they want a monarchy or a republic.”
The referendum started on Saturday morning, June 14 and will be running up to June 19, the day before Felipe is due to be crowned.
According to a recent poll by the national El Pais newspaper, 62 percent of Spaniards believe a referendum on the monarchy should be held "at some point.” Now they are in some form getting their wishes.
Castelló said that basically, they just want people to be able to express their opinion, whether they want a monarchy or a republic, adding, “We want to hear what Spaniards want for their country.”
Volunteers are staffing around 60 polling stations in major streets of cities across Spain and voting will also be available online. For people of Spanish nationality, their national identity card or passport is to be produced. Other nationalities must produce their passport or residence permit to be able to cast their vote.
When questioned about the legality of such a referendum, he said, "Asking people for their thoughts isn't illegal," mentioning a statement in the Spanish constitution that stipulates that "transcendent decisions can be put to a consultative referendum."
He said that under the law in Spain, permission is not required for this kind of initiative and that the only obligation of those involved is to notify the delegate from the central government in the region, mentioning that the forms required for this process are provided on the group's website.
According to Eduardo Robles Elvira, who is involved in the more technical aspects of the poll, measures will be taken to stop people from voting more than once.
"We're doing all of this so that it's the most transparent and legitimate referendum possible," he said, mentioning that independent organizations will be monitoring and tallying the results.
Castelló advised that they haven’t yet decided what to do with the results from the poll, saying, "We know that the government isn't going to say, 'hey, look how many people want a republic, let's do that." He said that the process is more symbolic and that they want people to realize that it is possible to have a say in how their country is run.
Spaniards worldwide will be able to place their vote. A group is setting up a polling station in Paris, France and online voting is available to those elsewhere in the world.
Castelló joked to the British Guardian reporter, "Spaniards are the ones who will be affected by this monarchy. If you want one as well for the British, we can organize one for your Queen. But that might seem a bit weird."
It will be interesting to see the results of the peoples' choices, as over 85 percent of the Spanish Parliament voted this week to pave the way for Prince Felipe to be crowned. The next step is to move on to the Spanish senate, where they expect the coronation to be approved early in the coming week.
Protest in Madrid  Spain for a referendum on monarchy or republic
Protest in Madrid, Spain for a referendum on monarchy or republic
Barcex
Protest in Madrid  Spain for a referendum on monarchy or republic
Protest in Madrid, Spain for a referendum on monarchy or republic
Barcex
Spanish sources:
Referéndum YA
¡Democracia Real Ya!
Avaaz petition
Diagonal Global
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