Friday, June 20, 2008

Present-day constitutional monarchical status

Though many of Europe's past and present leftist parties contain anti-monarchy factions, to date few have openly declared a preference for flat-out monarchical abolition, and instead use their powers to curtail and reform alleged un-democratic or prejudiced elements of the monarchy. For example, in recent years the age-old tradition of „males first“ order of succession to the throne has been abolished in some European constitutional monarchies, allowing for eldest daughters to assume the throne before their brothers.

One view as to why modern constitutional monarchies continue to survive is that the individual royal families themselves have remained popular. Today, most contemporary monarchs work to be the embodiment of the state, and the focus of national unity. For example, in many constitutional monarchies the monarch's birthday is a national holiday, and an event marked with public patriotic events and parties; these events can also foster tourism. The sovereign, along with the larger royal families, project a modern image to the citizenry of a monarchy that is both caring and interested in the people and their country. Many members of modern royal families attempt to provide example, frequently making donations or participating in charity events, visiting poor or sick citizens, and making public appearances at high profile sporting or arts events. As long as a monarchy can remain popular in the public eye, there is little reason for the politicians to meddle, and those who do can easily find themselves at the receiving end of harsh public criticism.

In recent years many royal families have also become popular targets of tabloid journalism and gossip, which although often argued as being intrusive and destructive, continues to prove that many find royals interesting simply as celebrities. A further argument speculates that abolishing a popular monarchy may be a pointless endeavor anyway, as even a „deposed“ royal family could presumably still live their royal lifestyle and capture public attention, making any republican replacement seem illegitimate. Historically, when monarchies have been abolished the royal family was usually exiled to a foreign country to prevent their presence from interfering or distracting from the new republican government. However, such moves were usually done during periods of conflict and turmoil with the monarchy.

If a democratic country were to abolish its monarchy today, an exile for the royal family would likely be denounced as cruel, and would thus not be seen as a practical option. Moreover, some previously exiled royal families (such as the Habsburgs in Austria) won legal cases by arguing that exiling a person from his or her homeland solely based on family origin is a severe violation of human rights. In Bulgaria, the fall of Communism enabled the former Monarch not only to return from prolonged exile but also to engage in active politics (without seeking to regain his throne).

In the 20th century, a much more politically sophisticated view in favour of preserving constitutional monarchies has often been argued as well. As mentioned above, many constitutional monarchs continue to hold some political powers, even though these may be never used in practice, or only exercised symbolically. However, some have argued that as long as monarchs retain these powers formally, the „threat“ of political intervention is still strong enough to dissuade politicians from acting in an overly autocratic or illegal manner. The fact that many constitutional monarchs still retain the ultimate power to fire a prime minister is often cited as the most useful emergency check against tyranny.

Arguments for monarchies

Monarchists make the following arguments, among others, in support of monarchy:

  • A hereditary monarch is likely to be a more competent head-of-state than is an elected president, because the former may have been prepared, from childhood, to serve as such.
  • A monarchy may be less costly to maintain than a republic because it spares the state the expense of holding presidential elections, and because the royal family's private fortune may be enough for its own support, compared to the public expenditures the accommodations, pensions and other maintenance of a republic's presidential incumbent and former presidents.
  • The competition and criticism to which republican presidents typically are exposed, as elected officials and especially during the election campaigns themselves, damages the reputation and dignity of the head of state.
  • Because republican presidents are typically members of a political party, while monarchs typically stand outside of politics, a president is less well able to serve as a neutral representative of a country and its people.
  • Presidents are obliged to act in accord with the policies and ideas of their political parties or supporters, while monarchs can reign more independently.
  • A monarch makes a better visible symbol of national identity and unity than does a president.
  • In a republic the continual changes of head-of-state create political uncertainty, which they contrast with the symbolic continuity of having a monarch. Some monarchists even argue that monarchy not only symbolises continuity, but actually guarantees of political stability, and instance, to support this view, historical cases where the abolition of monarchy has been followed by civil wars and the rise of totalitarian systems, such as Jacobinism in France, Nazism in Germany, and Communism in Russia and China.

1 comment:

radical royalist said...

Convincing arguments in favour of the Monarchy. May many Serbians read them and draw the right conclusions.