Spaniards want new king to play greater role in politics: poll

MADRID Sun Jun 22, 2014 8:28am EDT

Spain's new King Felipe (L) and Queen Letizia arrive for an event to show support for victims of terrorism in Madrid June 21, 2014. REUTERS/Andrea Comas

Spain's new King Felipe (L) and Queen Letizia arrive for an event to show support for victims of terrorism in Madrid June 21, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Andrea Comas

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MADRID (Reuters) - Most Spaniards want their new king, Felipe, to play a greater role in politics and build bridges between the country's divided parties and regions, a poll showed on Sunday.

Spain's monarchy has tried stay out of the intricacies of factional rivalries in recent years - though Felipe's father, King Juan Carlos, is widely credited with helping smooth the country's transition to democracy in the 1970s after the Francisco Franco dictatorship.

The poll in newspaper El Pais suggested three quarters of Spaniards thought Felipe, sworn in on Thursday after the abdication of his father, should personally push parties to reach agreements on Spain's problems if politicians failed to do so.

The findings echoed widespread frustration over bickering between the governing center-right People's Party and the main opposition Socialist PSOE during debates on recent legislation, such as on increasing transparency and fighting corruption.

Spanish politics is heavily partisan and regional, and growing separatist sentiment in Catalonia has seen the biggest political parties hemorrhaging votes in the wealthy territory and beyond. Dialogue between parties in Catalonia and their national counterparts in Madrid has almost completely broken down.

The Metroscopia survey of 600 people for El Pais found 91 percent believed there was an urgent need for more political pacts to solve Spain's problems. Seventy-five percent said they would back the new king actively pushing for such agreements.

Most Spaniards continued to support a parliamentary monarchy rather than a republic, a second poll in Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia showed.

Felipe was more popular than his father Juan Carlos, who stepped down earlier this month after a series of scandals eroded public support, the polls also suggested, echoing the findings from other surveys.

The succession has intensified debate on the extent of the king's constitutional role, given a perceived need for change amid a string of corruption cases, growing social inequality and rising support for Catalan nationalism ahead of a planned referendum in the region.

The Feedback poll for La Vanguardia, which interviewed 200 people in Catalonia and another 800 in Spain as a whole, found support for the monarchy at almost 52 percent. Overall, polls over the past decade have shown an increase in republicanism, particularly amongst the under-40s,

The La Vanguardia survey found that although most believed Felipe, 46, was well-informed about the Catalan issue, people were evenly split on whether or not his influence could help to resolve the differences between Madrid and Barcelona.

The palace has announced the King's first trip outside Madrid will be to Catalonia to give a business prize this week.

Most believed the central government should make "some kind of gesture" to Catalonia before the planned plebiscite on November 9, but most also thought such a move would be unlikely, the Feedback survey found.

(Reporting By Elisabeth O'Leary)

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