Spain's royals postpone Britain visit over political situation

Madrid (AFP) –


The March visit of the Spanish royal couple to Britain has been postponed due to the political situation in Spain, which has yet to form a government following inconclusive elections, the foreign ministry said Thursday.

King Felipe VI and his wife Letizia had been due to pay a state visit to Britain from March 8 to 10 at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth II in what would have been the first such trip in more than 30 years.

"Due to the current process of forming a new government in Spain, this state visit has been postponed," the foreign ministry said in a statement, without offering further details.

Felipe acceded to the throne in 2014 when his father Juan Carlos abdicated, vowing to clean up the Spanish monarchy which has been hit by a series of scandals including fraud allegations against his sister Cristina and her husband.

The 48-year-old forms a glamorous, modern couple with former television presenter Letizia, 43, whom he married in 2004.

He has been actively involved in negotiations to form a government following elections on December 20 that saw the incumbent conservative Popular Party win but without an absolute majority, leaving its leader Mariano Rajoy struggling for support.

After days of consultations with various party leaders, the king -- who traditionally nominates a candidate for prime minister following elections -- eventually picked Rajoy's main rival Pedro Sanchez, Socialist party chief.

But Sanchez faces an uphill struggle to succeed where Rajoy failed, as he will have to sit down with conflicting parties to try and form an alliance acceptable to his own divided grouping that will also give him enough parliamentary seats to push his government through.