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Spain's Parliament backs bill allowing king to abdicate, leftist parties demand referendum

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Spanish King Juan Carlos arrives at a dinner at the Pardo Palace in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (AP Photo/Dani Pozo, pool) (The Associated Press)

Spain's Parliament has voted overwhelmingly in favor of urgent government legislation allowing King Juan Carlos to abdicate this month and hand over his duties to Crown Prince Felipe.

The legislation was approved by 299 lawmakers, while 19 voted against and 23 abstained.

Several leftist deputies protested, holding up signs demanding a referendum on whether to scrap the monarchy.

The bill Wednesday was backed by the majority-ruling Popular Party and the leading opposition Socialist Party.

Juan Carlos, 76, is widely respected for steering Spain's transition from dictatorship to democracy but has been hit hard by scandals in recent years.

The Senate is expected to approve the legislation June 17, with 46-year-old Felipe being proclaimed king two days later.