Constitutional Monarchy: an Idealistic longing for the past or an effective political system?

November 5, 2011

Political Theory

Being an international student from Australia, the questions i have been asked most was, apart from “do you ride kangaroos” or “do you have a pet kangaroo” (you have no idea ho many times i’ve been asked…and the answer for both is no), do you  guys

The Queenstill have the Queen? The answer is yes. Australia is still a part of the commonwealth, with the Queen as the head of State, and the Governor-general acting as a Head of State in the absence of the Queen.

There are still around 40 or so countries that have monarchs. Out of these few countries, the majority, including countries such as UK, Japan, Cambodia and Denmark uses a system known as Constitutional Monarchy. In a Constitutional Monarchy, the monarch is simply the figure head of the country with very restricted political powers. For example, in England, the extent of the Queen’s political powers are ceremonial (appointing

the Prime Minister,Opening parliament and being the head of the Church of England etc) and reserve powers (dissolve parliament, dismiss a primeminister, grant pardons etc). Most of the political power rests upon the Head of government, who is usually known as the Prime Minister, voted in by the people through popular support. In addition, there is the presence of either a bicameral or unicameral system of government that represents the views of the people. It is clear that, purely politically, the presense of a monarch is quite redundant. So why have a monarch???

Many monarchists have argued that the monarchs are an integral part of their culture, a living symbol of their history and heritage. However, are these good enough reasons to have a percentage of people’s taxes be used to fund the Royal Family? The question of republicanisation of countries have surfaced a couple of times in the past decade, most prominently in the United Kingdom and Japan. In both cases, the consesnus was to hold on to their system of Constitutional Monarchy, and to keep their respective monarchs, as many believed that the monarchs were as much part of their country as their land or flag. Which is, i guess, fair to say , as the monarchs also add a certain amount of culture and history to a country, and in the case of the Queen Elizabeth II, she is admittedly a very good ambassador for UK.

Another reason might be because a monarch adds a sense of unity. A monarch, in the more modern era, will always be from the incumbent family (assuming that we don’t have any more Richard the III style usurpations of the throne), hence, when there will always be political turmoil relative to the different political parties and ideologies, the figure head, the king or queen will always remain the same.

However, i still question the effectiveness of the queen’s presense in the Commonwealth countries. Why, would the 50 or so countries currently under the British Commonwealth still want to be under the branch of British monarchy and fly the union Jack on upon their flag (only for some)? There are no direct benefits of having a queen as a figure head for commonwealth states as, for one theing, the Queen tends to only represent the United Kingdom in official functions. Furthermore, for countries such as Australia and Canda, who are arguably as prominent in the world stage politically and economically as the United Kingdom itself, the presence of the Queen as their head of state could potentially have a negative effect on their national image as they may still be seen as simply a colony of the United Kingdom. Why would they not want to become a republic in their own right?

The Union Jack

The Union Jack



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