Criticism of the Spanish king, long targeted by separatists and left-wing anti-monarchists, increased after 2017 when he called for Spanish unity following a violent police crackdown on people trying to votes for Catalonia's independence referendum.
Nearly 50 Catalan and other lawmakers who advocate their regions' independence from Spain boycotted Monday's ceremonial opening of the nation's legislative season to protest the presence of the royal family.
The representatives of five parties from the northern regions of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia say the position of the king is “anachronistic" and should be rooted out of Spanish politics.
Their symbolic gesture of not attending the first national parliament session since a new left-wing government was sworn in last month exposes the difficulties that Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez faces in the coming months.
His coalition with the far-left United We Can (Podemos) party will need votes from the separatist parties to pass the nation's 2020 spending plan and any other significant legislation. Sanchez's Socialists have been supportive of King Felipe VI and his father Juan Carlos I, the former monarch.
Shortly before Monday's highly formal ceremony began at the Congress of Deputies in Madrid, a leading lawmaker with Catalonia's ERC party read from ta joint manifesto from the five pro-independence parties, which declared that: “We have no king.”
“The majority of the Catalan, Basque and Galician societies reject the figure of an anachronistic institution that is ... based on the goal of maintaining and imposing the unity of Spain and its laws,” read Gabriel Rufian.
It's not the first time that lawmakers have snubbed the king. But Monday saw the highest number of deputies and senators ever to stay away from the opening session since Spain recovered democratic rule following the death of Gen. Francisco Franco in 1975.
The five parties hold 29 seats out of 350 in the lower house, or Congress of Deputies, and 20 seats in the 265-strong Senate.
The Spanish king has long been a target of separatists and left-wing anti-monarchists.
But criticism increased after a speech in 2017 calling for Spanish unity after police violently cracked down on people trying to cast votes in a banned independence referendum in Catalonia.
Felipe avoided any direct mention of the separatists during his speech to parliament.