Sunday, February 09, 2014

The Infanta Infatuation

If you were a rabid royalist or a rabid Republican, you would have already made your mind up about the innocence or guilt of the Infanta before she stepped from her car, having avoided the walk along the ramp of shame that the Infanta's Iñaki has had to endure on the two occasions when he has been invited to appear before Judge Castro in the Palma courthouse.

The overwhelming majority of Spaniards display a singular lack of rabidity when it comes to the royalty or to Republicanism. Most will be inclined, thanks largely to an alarming decline in the popularity of the royal family, to assume that Judge Castro - in whom the people (of Mallorca at any rate) trust - knows what he's doing and that there is substance to the reasons for Princess Cristina being called in for a chat. It doesn't make them rabid Republicans though, even if a recent poll suggested that around 40% of the population would be happy to see the monarchy go. As with political parties, Spaniards tend to be indifferent. There is a national shrug of the shoulders when the elite have their dirty washing aired and then find it folded away neatly in a drawer, having been "archived". For Spaniards, Cristina is like a politician brought to court, the only difference being a title. Their expectation, as with politicians, is that, regardless of whether Castro has strong grounds or not, nothing will happen as a result of the court appearance, and they may well be right to have such an expectation.

Being royalist or Republican should play no part in the court proceedings but in a small way it does, this small way being in the guise of the Frente Cívico Somos Mayoría, a movement formed by the ex-leader of the United Left, a Republican-favouring party. It is one of two organisations that have brought what are in effect private prosecutions against the Princess. The other is Manos Limpias, a "union" which is about as far removed politically from the Frente Cívico as you can get. Which doesn't make it royalist. Quite the contrary. Given its background, Manos Limpias is essentially a Francoist organisation, and Francoists have little time for a Bourbon king who turned his back on Francoism when he had the chance to support it not once but twice. By extension, therefore, they have little time for anyone else with a Bourbon connection.

The presence of lawyers on behalf of these two diametrically opposite bodies in the court has added to the surreal nature of events in Palma. The world's media has flown in in great number, thus lending support to the notion that Palma could be forging a new niche in tourism - celebrity trial tourism - to indulge in the Infanta infatuation. The newsworthiness of the occasion is that she's the daughter of the King and that daughters of the King or any other member of the royal family, other than those who have married into it (Iñaki), don't do court appearances. One thing is for sure. Whatever happens (and nothing will), Judge Castro has secured for himself a place in legal history: the judge who put a royal in the dock.

But of course she isn't actually in the dock. She has only been called in to answer questions from a list as long as both Judge Castro's arms. And there are other questions, those from the chief anti-corruption prosecutor, Pedro Horrach, which is another surreal element. Horrach doesn't believe the Princess has a case to answer. Nevertheless, he gets his turn to ask questions, too.

Having replied to most of these questions by saying that she didn't know anything about her husband's business affairs and alleged criminality, what happens next? The chances of her being put on trial are remote in the extreme. Indeed, if the prosecutor is insufficiently moved to change his mind, it is hard to see how Judge Castro could proceed. There has to be a prosecutor, and while Manos Limpias might see itself cast in such a role, this would also be extremely unlikely. Moreover, it would be extraordinarily damaging. Just imagine, a Francoist organisation leading the interrogation of the daughter of the King.

The more likely outcome is that the whole thing will be "archived", the legal fudge which does permit the reopening of a case but typically puts an end to the whole matter. Even if he still believes there is a case against the Princess, Castro may have no alternative but to resort to archiving. And so the Spanish people will indeed shrug their shoulders because this will be what they might have expected to have happened, thus making them question what the point of the court appearance was.

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