Constitutional monarchy

A constitutional monarchy, parliamentary monarchy, or democratic monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises authority in accordance with a written or unwritten constitution.[1] Constitutional monarchies differ from absolute monarchies (in which a monarch holds absolute power as both head of state and head of government) in that they are bound to exercise powers and authorities within limits prescribed by an established legal framework. Constitutional monarchies range from countries such as Liechtenstein, Monaco, Morocco, Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain, where the constitution grants substantial discretionary powers to the sovereign, to countries such as the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, Malaysia and Japan, where the monarch retains significantly less personal discretion in the exercise of their authority.

World's states coloured by form of government1
     Full presidential republics2      Semi-presidential republics2
     Republics with an executive president elected by or nominated by the legislature that may or may not be subject to parliamentary confidence.      Parliamentary republics2
     Parliamentary constitutional monarchies      Constitutional monarchies which have a separate head of government but where royalty holds significant executive and/or legislative power
     Absolute monarchies      One-party states
     Countries where constitutional provisions for government have been suspended (e.g. military dictatorships)      Countries which do not fit any of the above systems (e.g. provisional governments).
1 This map was compiled according to the Wikipedia list of countries by system of government. See there for sources.
2 Several states constitutionally deemed to be multiparty republics are broadly described by outsiders as authoritarian states. This map presents only the de jure form of government, and not the de facto degree of democracy.
The three constitutional monarchs of the Scandinavian kingdoms of Sweden, Norway & Denmark gathered in November 1917 in Oslo.
From left to right: Gustaf V, Haakon VII & Christian X.
A meeting in the Japanese privy council in 1946 led by emperor Hirohito.

Constitutional monarchy may refer to a system in which the monarch acts as a non-party political head of state under the constitution, whether written or unwritten.[2] While most monarchs may hold formal authority and the government may legally operate in the monarch's name, in the form typical in Europe the monarch no longer personally sets public policy or chooses political leaders. Political scientist Vernon Bogdanor, paraphrasing Thomas Macaulay, has defined a constitutional monarch as "A sovereign who reigns but does not rule".[3]

In addition to acting as a visible symbol of national unity, a constitutional monarch may hold formal powers such as dissolving parliament or giving royal assent to legislation. However, the exercise of such powers may largely be exercises strictly in accordance with either written constitutional principles or unwritten constitutional conventions, rather than any personal political preference imposed by the sovereign. In The English Constitution, British political theorist Walter Bagehot identified three main political rights which a constitutional monarch may freely exercise: the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, and the right to warn. Many constitutional monarchies still retain significant authorities or political influence, however, such as through certain reserve powers and who may also play an important political role.

The United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms are all constitutional monarchies in the Westminster system of constitutional governance. Two constitutional monarchies Malaysia and Cambodia – are elective monarchies, wherein the ruler is periodically selected by a small electoral college.

Strongly limited constitutional monarchies have been referred to as crowned republics by writers H.G. Wells and Glenn Patmore.[4][5]

The concept of semi-constitutional monarch identifies constitutional monarchies where the monarch retains substantial powers, on a par with a president in the semi-presidential system.[6] As a result, constitutional monarchies where the monarch has a largely ceremonial role may also be referred to as 'parliamentary monarchies' to differentiate them from semi-constitutional monarchies.[7]


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