The Spanish monarchy is facing renewed criticism as King Felipe VI’s two sisters confirmed reports that they were vaccinated for Covid-19 during a trip to the United Arab Emirates, where their scandal-ridden father and former king Juan Carlos I resides. Cristina, 55, and Elena, 57, say the vaccine will allow them to visit the former king, who has also been inoculated against the virus, on a regular basis. “We were offered that possibility and we accepted it,” they said. “Otherwise, we would have waited our turn to get the vaccine in Spain.”
With less than 3% of Spain’s population vaccinated, the two princesses’ decision has spurred criticism from most political parties, adding new fuel to a long-running string of scandals surrounding the monarchy. “I believe Spanish society doesn’t view members of the royal family getting vaccinated against the coronavirus in Abu Dhabi while many Spanish citizens dutifully wait for their turn favorably,” said Pablo Iglesias, the vice president of the Spanish government.
“There is a debate on the utility of the monarchy, which is growing bigger with every new scandal,” said Iglesias, who is the leader of the anti-austerity Unidas Podemos party and, unlike his Socialists allies in the cabinet, publicly supports a republic.
In Catalonia, the pro-independence Esquerra Republicana party criticized the monarchy, citing recent revelations that Juan Carlos I had paid over four million euros in back taxesfor undeclared income relating to flights on a private jet. “This week, a runaway king has regularized one-tenth of what he stole and some princesses were vaccinated illegally,” said ERC’s leader in the Spanish congress, Gabriel Rufián.
Carles Puigdemont, the former Catalan president exiled in Belgium, also reacted to the news by attacking the crown’s legitimacy: “They do what they learnt at home. [Dictator Francisco] Franco offered Juan Carlos the possibility of being head of state, and he accepted it. Since then, Spain’s royal family knows that one of its members, no matter how much of a scoundrel, will be head of state.”
Even political parties that support the monarchy have criticized Cristina and Elena, while distancing their actions from their brother Felipe VI and the monarchy. “I don’t like it at all when someone uses their position to cut the line,” said Miquel Iceta, the Catalan head of the Socialists and Spanish minister for territorial policy. He also stressed that Felipe, the queen, and their two daughters did not make the same “mistake.”
Anti-independence Ciudadanos’ spokesperson in Congress, Edmundo Bal, said “public figures” should “set an example”. “It’s bad and very disappointing,” he said.
Still, some politicians avoided expressing any criticism of the two princesses, such as Madrid’s conservative mayor, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, who argued that they “did no harm to Spanish citizens” because, “unlike public officials who used their position to cut the line,” they “did not take anyone’s jab.”