Madrid – Spaniards celebrated their National Day here Wednesday with the traditional military parade as the country prepares for early general elections next month that are expected to oust the governing Socialists.
King Juan Carlos, Queen Sofia and other members of the royal family were joined in the reviewing stand by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the heads of Parliament and leaders of Spain's regional governments, among other political figures.
Zapatero, who announced in April that he would not seek another term, was largely spared the heckling that was a feature of the National Day observance over the previous five years, as the public was kept more than 500 meters (yards) away from the dignitaries.
The men vying to succeed him as premier, Mariano Rajoy of the main opposition Popular Party and Socialist standard-bearer Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, were seen chatting in the reviewing stand for about 15 minutes before the parade started.
Rajoy's conservative PP is heavily favored in the Nov. 20 ballot.
The king, who recently underwent foot surgery, climbed aboard a vehicle to conduct a review of the troops and then returned to his seat to watch the procession, though he rose several times to salute the banners of individual units as they passed.
Unusually fine weather for October brought thousands out to watch the parade of more than 3,000 military personnel and 147 ground vehicles with 55 fighter jets and helicopters flying overhead.