Sunday, April 3, 2011

Monarchies 101: Absolute, constitutional and titular.

I was flabbergasted by Jordan’s parliament recent announcement in which it rejects the calls for a “constitutional monarchy” in Jordan.  My shock came about by the realization that the political discourse in Jordan is so surreal that the parliament of a kingdom, whose current constitution dates back to 1952, rejects “constitutional monarchy”. This is akin to US congress rejecting the federal republic! For what is a kingdom -with a constitution- if not a constitutional monarchy!

Not to mention the calls for “absolute monarchy”. A Jordanian lady recently tweeted, quite gleefully, about how thankful she is that we have an absolute monarchy! And a sign in Jerash declared too, that the people want “absolute monarchy”.

I will start by a condescending statement:

There are absolute monarchies, constitutional monarchies and titular monarchies. If one does not know the difference, one shouldn't talk politics. As SIMPLE as that.  Whether that one is an MP in Jordan’s parliament, a lady tweep in Amman or a shepherd in Jerash!

Clearly, we must restate the obvious in Jordan. The confusion about terms is quite shocking. So here goes, a crash course, “monarchies 101”:

Absolute Monarchy:
A system where the monarch is the ultimate source of political power. He rules by decree and his decisions are not subject to popular will or judicial or legislative checks and reviews. It is clearly not a democratic system of government. Such a system still exists today in some countries where monarchs rule by decree, despite the occasional presence of toothless advisory bodies (whether elected or appointed). In the Western European context, this system dates back to the middle ages where the concept of “divine right of kings” was also acceptable.

Constitutional Monarchy:
Any monarchy with a constitution is effectively a constitutional monarchy. While generally accepted that a “constitutional monarchy” is by default a democracy, this is NOT necessarily the case always. It all depends on the constitution. Some constitutional monarchies are full democracies (such as Sweden, Netherlands, Norway) while others have constitutions that grant the monarchs massive political powers and the ability to rule by decree in certain circumstances.

Titular Monarchy: 
Any monarchy where the king / Queen’s role in public life and politics is largely ceremonial is a titular monarchy. In this context, the King “reigns but does not govern”. Such a monarchy may or may not have a written constitution. For example, the Netherlands is a titular Monarchy with a written constitution while the UK is a titular monarchy without a written constitution.

Bottom line:
  Every titular monarchy is a democracy and every absolute monarchy is a dictatorship. Virtually, every titular monarchy is a constitutional monarchy, but not every constitutional monarchy is a titular monarchy. Not every constitutional monarchy is a democracy, and not every constitutional monarchy is a dictatorship. That, fundamentally, depends on the actual constitution, and the degree to which that constitution is respected and enforced.

1 comment:

Veggie Soup for the Soul said...

Good post, funny how you have (zero) comments.