Last Updated on March 12, 2021 by Filip Poutintsev
A monarchy is ruled by the head of government with absolute control, usually a queen or a king. In a monarchy, the head of the government remains in situ, however, the absolute control disappears. The monarch is instead forced to use their authority per the foundations provided to them under the nation’s constitution.
A constitutional monarchy may seek advice from a system during which the monarch acts as a non-party political head of state under the constitution, whether written or unwritten. Constitutional monarchies are entirely different than absolute monarchies, where the monarch holds all power over the government and also the people.
Besides serving as a living symbol of national unity, pride and tradition, the constitutional monarch may—depending on the constitution—have the capability to disband the present parliamentary government or to grant royal consent to the actions of the parliament. Today, the world’s 43 constitutional monarchies are members of the Commonwealth of countries, a 53-nation intergovernmental support organization headed by the sitting monarch of the UK.
The best-recognized samples of these modern constitutional monarchies include the governments of the UK, Canada, Sweden, and Japan.
Table of Contents
- Pros of Constitutional Monarchy
- Cons of Constitutional Monarchy
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Pros of Constitutional Monarchy
Even if there is political polarization present between parties or even the society, a simple word from the head of state can help everyone to find the common ground that they need to keep pressing forward.
Monarchs are often viewed as a uniting symbol for a nation. It links people to their past while providing a vision toward a better future. Even if the country is politically divided, words or steps from the monarch can bring people back together, so everyone can move forward together, instead of falling apart.
By having a constitutional monarchy in place, there is an enhanced level of security for the overall population because there are fewer opportunities to conduct a domestic uprising against the government.
A constitutional monarchy is less liable to a coup compared to the other systems because it offers a double structure of support. You will have the side that includes all of the elected or appointed officials that govern over legislation and the daily tasks of governing, and then you have the sovereign who serves as the head of state in some capacity
3. System of Equality
A constitutional monarchy, even though it can be structured in many different ways, strives to create more equality between the various levels of government. A constitutional monarchy creates a system of checks and balances that forestalls one governing body or an individual from gaining too much power. This makes it necessary for compromise and negotiation to be part of the legislative process.
The goal of the monarch in a constitutional monarchy is to remain neutral. Their job isn’t to make the head of the government or other members look great or look bad. The monarch gets out of the way of most political processes to emphasize on building up the reputation of the nation instead.
They can serve as an advisor, though are often have duties that are more symbolic than anything else. The monarch generally works to maintain the reputation of their country while the elected representatives do the daily work of governing.
5. Allows for Change in the Government
In a constitutional monarchy, elections are still held on a regular basis. They may be routinely scheduled at specific dates or ordered by the government by a specific deadline. That gives the people a chance to express a need for change should they wish it. Under the structure of a constitutional monarchy, there are opportunities to change up who is seated where. Although the sovereign cannot be voted out in most government structures like this one, every other position could be refreshed periodically to remove the threat of complacency.
Cons of Constitutional Monarchy
1. Slow Decision Making
A constitutional monarchy is considered to be a very slow form of governing. Because of the fact that there are ministers, senators, representatives, and other politicians involved in decision-making events, the monarch is generally required to check with all parties, groups, and members before moving forward with a particular decision.
In times of emergency, this can make it difficult for the government to respond quickly to critical situations. The desire of representatives to please everyone may cripple the system.
2. Costly Form of Government
In many constitutional monarchies, the individual in power often pulls a hefty income, sometimes with little responsibility to earn their salary. Some monarchs are even exempt from paying taxes.
Some nations are paying approximately $20 million annually despite receiving minimal governing benefits from their sovereign. Although that cost is often less than $2 per person, that’s still money which is coming of the pocket of the common person to support the royalty.
3. Difficult To Get Approval
No matter how limited or expansive the powers of a monarch may be because of a constitution, there’s still another layer of government that has to be consulted before decisions are made.
If the monarch does not agree with an idea, then it may mean taking the whole thing back to square one. Using the US as an example, imagine the President being forced to check with a monarch before having the ability to sign the legislation into law. That is the reality of a constitutional monarchy.
4. Leadership is not always of Quality
Within a constitutional monarchy, the monarch has no choice but to serve. They are often born into the life of a monarch. Some may even be forced into the role of ruling while they are still a child. Even with regents serving with them, a structure of government which allows children to serve as the head of state is arguably ineffective in what it hopes to do.
5. Complex Government Structure
Constitutional monarchies are often very difficult to evolve thanks to the complexity of its structure. Unwritten constitutions even create difficulties because the rules, though unwritten, have a practice of being followed.
Changing the rules creates objections within the varied layers of government that has to be resolved before any internal change would become possible. A constitutional monarchy can provide the monarch with virtually no power, making them a figurehead rather than a ruler. It also can make the monarch extremely powerful, with virtually no limitations to what they will do or how they will act.
These constitutional monarchy pros and cons describe a government that can be balanced and effective, but only if it is properly managed. The advantages and disadvantages of a constitutional monarchy are often determined by the quality of leadership that is present at the top of the government.
It can be used to either help people or hurt them, often based on the desires of the monarch. If the Head of State is seriously looking out for the best interests of their country, then this governing structure can be extraordinarily effective.
Read about other political systems: