Spanish princesses stay away from parliament opening

27th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Spain's King Juan Carlos appeared without his daughters as he launched the new parliament Tuesday, in a rare break from tradition amid a corruption scandal engulfing his son-in-law.

Media saw the absence of Juan Carlos' two daughters -- Christina and her elder sister Elena -- as a sign of the impact of an investigation targeting Christina's husband, Inaki Urdangarin.

The royal palace this month froze Urdangarin out of its official activities over the corruption affair, the first major scandal to hit a member of Juan Carlos' family.

Judges are investigating alleged corruption involving a charitable organisation formerly run by Urdangarin, 43, a former Olympic handball player.

The royal palace told AFP on Tuesday it was the first time the princesses had not attended the opening of parliament but denied their absence was due to the Urdangarin affair.

"They did not accept their invitation (to attend) for different reasons," a spokesman said. "It is their decision."

Leading daily El Pais however interpreted the absence of the princesses as "a clear consequence of the removal of Inaki Urdangarin from the family's activities".

In his address to parliament, the king reiterated a recent warning that public figures must be above reproach.

Juan Carlos told parliament that its members had a "responsibility to strengthen trust in the institutions" of state -- echoing concerns he voiced in his Christmas address to the nation on Saturday.

The address was widely seen by media as a reference to the Urdangarin affair.

In it, the king said he was "enormously worried" at public mistrust over the behaviour of public officials.

Juan Carlos declared the parliament open Tuesday with a solemn plea for an effort to rescue Spain's economy, which is suffering from 21.5 percent unemployment.

"All of you, deputies and senators, are united in the obligation to contribute with decisiveness and efficacy to getting over this crisis and its negative effects on citizens," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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