Monarchy, Current monarchies

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Summary

A monarchy is a form of government in which sovereignty is actually or nominally embodied in a single individual (the monarch). Forms of monarchy differ widely based on the level of legal autonomy the monarch holds in governance, the method of selection of the monarch, and any predetermined limits on the length of their tenure. When the monarch has no or few legal restraints in state and political matters, it is called an absolute monarchy and is a form of autocracy. Cases in which the monarch's discretion is formally limited (most common today) are called constitutional monarchies. In hereditary monarchies, the office is passed through inheritance within a family group, whereas elective monarchies use some system of voting. Each of the

Details

Currently there are 44 nations in the world with a monarch as head of state. They fall roughly into the following categories:

  • Other European constitutional monarchies. Andorra, Belgium, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, and Sweden are fully democratic states in which the monarch has a limited or largely ceremonial role. There is generally a Christian religion established as the official church in each of these countries. This is a form of Protestantism in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, while Belgium, Luxembourg, and Andorra are Roman Catholic countries. Spain and the Netherlands have no official State religion. Andorra is unique among these monarchies, as it is, by definition, a diarchy, with the Co-Princeship being shared by the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell. This situation, based on historic precedence, has created a unique situation among monarchies, as both Co-Princes are not of Andorran descent, and one is elected by common citizens (of France, however, as Andorrans cannot vote in the French Presidential Elections).
  • European constitutional/absolute monarchies. Liechtenstein and Monaco are constitutional monarchies in which the Prince retains many powers of an absolute monarch. For example the 2003 Constitution referendum which gives the Prince of Liechtenstein the power to veto any law that the Landtag proposes and the Landtag can veto any law that the Prince tries to pass. The Prince can hire or dismiss any elective member or government employee from his or her post. However, what makes him not an absolute monarch is that the people can call for a referendum to end the monarchy's reign. The Prince of Monaco has simpler powers but can not hire or dismiss any elective member or government employee from his or her post, but he can elect the minister of state, government council and judges. Both Albert II and Hans-Adam II have quite a bit of political power, but they also own huge tracts of land and are shareholders in many companies.
  • Islamic monarchies. These Islamic monarchs of Bahrain, Brunei, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates generally retain far more powers than their European or Commonwealth counterparts. Brunei, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia remain absolute monarchies; Bahrain, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates are classified as mixed, meaning there are representative bodies of some kind, but the monarch retains most of his powers. Jordan, Malaysia and Morocco are constitutional monarchies, but their monarchs still retain more substantial powers than European equivalents.
  • East Asian constitutional monarchies. Bhutan, Cambodia, Japan, Thailand have constitutional monarchies where the monarch has a limited or ceremonial role. Bhutan, Japan and Thailand are countries that were never colonized by European powers, but have changed from traditional absolute monarchies into constitutional ones during the twentieth century. Cambodia had its own monarchy after independence from France, which was deposed after the Khmer Rouge came into power and the subsequent invasion by Vietnam. The monarchy was subsequently restored in the peace agreement of 1993.
  • Other monarchies. Five monarchies do not fit into one of the above groups by virtue of geography or class of monarchy: Tonga and Samoa in Polynesia; Swaziland and Lesotho in Africa; and the Vatican City in Europe. Of these, Lesotho and Tonga are constitutional monarchies, while Swaziland and Vatican City are absolute monarchies. Samoa falls into neither class, as one of the Four Paramount Chiefs of the country is elected to hold the position of O le Ao o le Malo, or "Chieftain of the Government". This position is not required by the Samoan constitution, which is why Samoa is officially classified as a republic rather than a constitutional monarchy. Swaziland is also unique among these monarchies, often being considered a diarchy. The King, or Ngwenyama, rules alongside his mother, the Ndlovukati, as dual heads of state originally designed to be checks on political power. The Ngwenyama, however, is considered the administrative head of state, while the Ndlovukati is considered the spiritual and national head of state, a position which more or less has become symbolic in recent years. The Pope is monarch of Vatican City by virtue of his position as head of the Catholic Church; he is an elected rather than hereditary ruler and is always a non-native of the territory.

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