When most people think of a monarchy, they think of the British royals or the lavish lifestyle of Middle Eastern oil tycoons. But a monarchy doesn’t have to be about extravagance; it can also be a form of government that is enshrined in a nation’s constitution. A constitutional monarchy is a system where the monarch (the king or queen) has limited power and is bound by law. In contrast, democracy is a system where all citizens have an equal say in how their country is run. So what’s the difference between constitutional monarchy and democracy? Let’s take a closer look.
What is a Constitutional Monarchy?
A constitutional monarchy is a “form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises their authority in accordance with a constitution and is not alone in deciding” [Source]. It can be explained as a “system of government in which a monarch (see monarchy) shares power with a constitutionally organized government. The monarch may be the de facto head of state or a purely ceremonial leader. The constitution allocates the rest of the government’s power to the legislature and judiciary” [Source].
In a constitutional monarchy, the legislature has the most political powers. In such a system of governance, the king’s or queen’s powers are limited by the constitution, and political power is shared between the monarch (the king or queen) and a constitutional government such as parliament [Source]. Many constitutional monarchies have a head of state, the king, and a prime minister, who is the head of government. Also, “The king title can only be obtained through heredity and is for life”. Under a constitutional monarchy, power is shared between the monarch, the head of government and the constitution. The legislature is tasked to make laws, and the head of the state has to proclaim these laws and follow them. The head of the state serves as a symbol of the nation since it represents “centuries of an unbroken hereditary line of succession”.
Examples of a Constitutional Monarchy
Examples of constitutional monarchies include Britain under the Whigs, Belgium, Cambodia, Jordan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Thailand [Source].
What is Democracy?
The word democracy is derived from the Greek words “demos”, meaning people and “Kratos”, meaning power, and democracy entails “power of the people” or “a way of governing which depends on the will of the people”. Democracy is defined as a “system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives” [Source]. Wikipedia notes that democracy is a “form of government in which the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation or choose governing officials to do so” [Source]. In a democratic environment, common people hold political power and “can rule either directly or through elected representatives”. Representatives are elected through elections held throughout the country, and eligible citizens do voting. Also, representatives will be given a time limit in office before the next elections are conducted.
Examples of Countries that practice Democracy
Many countries practise democracy, including Norway, Iceland, Finland, New Zealand, Ireland, and Sweden [Source].
Similarities between Constitutional Monarchy and Democracy
Similarities between constitutional monarchy and democracy are that these entities are a type of authority used in a country. Also, they are tools used to create a form of governance to rule a country [Source]. A constitutional monarchy and democracy rely on a constitution written upon consultation with people’s values and other external factors which influence policies and laws. There is a need for a leader obligated to make decisions in a constitutional monarchy and a democracy. A constitutional monarchy is a form of democracy described as representative democracy [Source].
Difference between Constitutional Monarchy and Democracy
The difference between a monarchy and democracy is that democracy is a “form of government in which the people have the authority to choose their governing legislation”, and a monarchy is a “form of government in which a person, the monarch, is the head of state for life or until abdication [Source]. Also, “in a constitutional monarchy, the monarch is sovereign” while “in a democracy, the people remain sovereign”. Under a constitutional monarchy, people may not play a part in political decision making, but democracy is described as the people’s rule. In a democracy, the head of state has the power to make all decisions, whereas, in a constitutional monarchy, the head of state has limited powers.
Under a monarchy, people are not considered equal, while in a democracy, people are equal. Also, people can give feedback to a democratically elected government, but they cannot condemn a monarchy. If a democratically elected government fails, representatives may be held accountable and may be removed by-elections. On the other hand, Kings and Queens have no accountability, and people do not have the power to remove kings and queens even if they are dissatisfied with their administration. In a monarch, laws are framed in the hand of the Kings and Queens, whilst in a democracy, the representatives make the laws.
The following is a clear distinction between a democracy and a constitutional monarchy: “When a country is ruled by a Government elected by its people through elections, then it is called a Democracy,” and “When a country is ruled by Kings and Queens when the right to rule a country is passed through a dynasty and not through elections, then it is called a monarchy.”