By Graham Keeley
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Over 40% of Spaniards support establishing a republic following the abrupt departure abroad of former king Juan Carlos amid a cloud of scandals, according to a poll published on Monday.
The 82-year-old former monarch has been living in the United Arab Emirates since he left Spain in August to avoid causing further embarrassment to his son, King Felipe VI.
Some 40.9% of respondents said they preferred a republic, while 34.9% said they supported the royal family, and 24.2% said they did not know, according to the survey for the Platform for Independent Media, a group of mainly left-wing media.
The poll, which questioned 3,000 people, also found 48% want a referendum on the monarchy, which under Spain's constitution is the only way to decide the fate of the institution, while 25% were opposed and 16.1% did not know.
A poll published in August meant for the pro-monarchy ABC newspaper found 33.5% favouring a republic and 56% the monarchy, while 6% did not know and 4.1% were indifferent.
While not formally under investigation, Juan Carlos could become a target in two inquiries in Spain and Switzerland into alleged corruption associated with a 6.7-billion-euro ($7.92 billion), high-speed Saudi train contract won by Spanish firms.
Spain's supreme court prosecutor is considering whether to extend a corruption investigation into the train contract to formally involve Juan Carlos.
The former king has not commented publicly but his lawyer Javier Sanchez has said he is at the disposition of prosecutors if necessary.
The latest survey, published on the National Day public holiday when King Felipe will lead a reduced celebration due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was commissioned after the government Centre for Sociological Investigations declined to question Spaniards about the monarchy in its most recent poll.
Defence Minister Margarita Robles said the monarchy was an “essential part of the constitutional pact”, speaking in an interview published on Monday in ABC.
Nobel laureate Maria Vargas Llosa was among 183 high-profile supporters of the monarchy who posted a video on You Tube on Sunday in support of King Felipe.
(Reporting by Graham Keeley; Editing by Mark Heinrich)