Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How many monarchies still exist to this day?

With the growth of parliamentary authority during the 19th century and the rise of communism after the First World War, most monarchies have ceased to exist. Even where monarchs exist, they are in most cases just ceremonial heads of states, while the power to rule and hence make law is vested with elected legislatures. 

There are 43 or 44 countries that have monarchs as the ceremonial or the real head of the state, depending on whether or not the Vatican is counted among them. Of these, 7 (including the Vatican) are absolute monarchies, 16 are Commonwealth realms and the remaining 21 are constitutional monarchies. 

Which countries have absolute monarchies? 

In Vatican City, Brunei, Swaziland, Saudi Arab and Oman absolute power is vested in a single person and the monarch is the head of the state as well as the government. 

Qatar is also an absolute monarchy, but the head of state and head of the government are different persons. The UAE is a federal presidential elected monarchy, which is a federation of seven absolute monarchies or the Emirates. The ruler of Abu Dhabi is President or the head of state while the ruler of Dubai is the Prime Minister or the head of the government. 

A few former absolute monarchies like Morocco and Bhutan have turned into constitutional monarchies, but the monarch still retains tremendous power in forming national policies and passing laws. Nepal swung between absolute and constitutional monarchy for several years but in May this year, it has finally abolished monarchy altogether. 

While the powers vested in monarchs are being reduced by most countries, Liechtenstein has moved towards expanding the power of the monarch and the Prince of Liechtenstein was given expanded powers after a referendum that amended the constitution of the country. 

What is a Commonwealth realm? 

The Commonwealth realm is any of the 16 sovereign states within the Commonwealth of Nations, which treat Queen Elizabeth II as its monarch. The realms which include Canada, several West Indian islands, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and a few small Pacific islands are completely sovereign states, but Queen Elizabeth II is their ceremonial head of state. As the queen lives in the UK, her constitutional functions are performed by the Governors General of these nations, who are appointed by the queen after consulting the elected head of the government. 

What are constitutional monarchies? 

A constitutional monarchy is the form of government in which a monarch is the head of state, but unlike in an absolute monarchy, not the only or even the main source of political power. Political power is vested in the head of the government who is elected by common citizens. Apart from the 16 commonwealth realms, there are 21 constitutional monarchies. There are 2 constitutional monarchies in Africa, 8 in Asia, 10 in Europe and 1 in Oceania. 

What are sub-national monarchies? 

A few countries have certain regions that are allowed to have their traditional monarch, kings or heads. For instance, Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu is the reigning king of the Zulu nation in South Africa, while New Zealand also has a traditional Maori king. Uganda, Nigeria, Indonesia and Ghana also have such traditional kings. France has three official chiefdoms, which have their respective kings. 

Are the monarchs treated differently from common subjects in constitutional monarchies? 

In most constitutional monarchies, justice is done in the name of the monarch and hence the monarch cannot be asked to give evidence in any court of law. Naturally, the monarch is
 considered above the law of the state. 

source: Learning with the Times,Times of India,10.11.2008