Elective monarchy

Elective monarchy

An elective monarchy is a monarchy ruled by someone, generally from a royal house, who is elected by a group.

Some examples from history

In the ancient Kingdom of Rome, the kings were elected by the Assemblies.

The Holy Roman Empire is perhaps the best-known example of an historical elective monarchy [ [http://www.heraldica.org/topics/national/hre.htm#Qualifications the Holy Roman Empire ] ] ; the emperor was elected by a small council of nobles called prince-electors, although there was a hereditary flavor to the succession, especially after the 15th Century. Most of the electoral seats were hereditary (some were held by clerics).

In Gaelic-order Ireland, a "Rí", or king was elected to rule clan lands both large and small. While "Rí" (king) is used regardless of the size of the territory, in English, the lesser rulers are more commonly called chieftains. The "Ard Rí na hÉireann", or High King of Ireland was also elected from among the provincial kings.

A system of elective monarchy existed in Anglo-Saxon England (see Witenagemot), the Kingdom of Hawaii, Visigothic Spain, and medieval Scandinavia and in the Principality of Transylvania. Medieval France was an elective monarchy at the time of the first Capetian kings; the kings however took the habit of, during their reign, having their son elected as successor. The election soon became a mere formality and vanished after the reign of Philip II of France.

In Africa, the Mali Empire functioned as both a constitutional and elective monarchy. The mansa (emperor) had to be approved by the Gbara or Great Assembly despite hereditary claims. The Kingdom of Kongo was a purer example of an elective monarchy, where blood claims had even less pull. Nobles elected a king's successor, and it was not uncommon for the successor to not be of the same family as his predecessor. This form of elective monarchy existed in the kingdom from its inception in around 1400 until its complete disintegration in the early 20th century.

In the Mongol Empire, the Great Khan was chosen by the Kurultai.

In Poland, after the death of the last Piast in 1370, Polish kings were initially elected by a small council; gradually, this privilege was granted to all members of the "szlachta" (Polish nobility). Kings of Poland during the times of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1569-1795) were elected by gatherings of crowds of nobles at a field in Wola, today the neighbourhood of Warsaw. Since in Poland all sons of a noble were nobles, and not only the eldest, every one of an estimated 500,000 nobles could potentially have participated in such elections in person - by far the widest franchise of any European country at the time. During the election period, the function of the king was performed by an interrex (usually in person of the primate of Poland). This unique Polish election was termed the free election ("wolna elekcja").

In the Islamic World Caliphs, successors to Muhammad, were originally elected by consensus of the community. The first four Caliphs were elected in this fashion as Sunni Muslims believed Muhammad had originally intended before Muawiyah, the fifth caliph, turned the Caliphate into what is known as the Umayyad Dynasty. The first four elected caliphs were remembered as the Four Rightly Guided Caliphs.

At the start of the 20th century, the first monarchs of several newly-independent nations were elected by parliaments: Norway is the prime example. Previously, following precedent set in newly-independent Greece, new nations without a well-established hereditary royal family, often chose their own monarchs from among the established rather than elevate a member of the local power establishment, in the hope that a stable hereditary monarchy would eventually emerge from the process. The now-deposed royal families of Greece, Bulgaria, Albania (unsuccessfully) and Romania were originally appointed in this manner.

A short-lived autonomous monarchy during World War II, the Principality of Pindus and Voivodship of Macedonia also was an elective monarchy.

Other monarchs, such as the Shah of Iran, have been required to undergo a parliamentary vote of approval before being allowed to ascend to the throne.

An attempt to create an elective monarchy in the United States failed. Alexander Hamilton argued in a long speech before the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that the President of the United States should be, in effect, an elective monarch, ruling for "good behavior" (i.e., for life, unless impeached) and with extensive powers.Fact|date=May 2008 His proposal was resoundingly voted down in favor of a four-year term with the possibility of reelection. In his later defense of the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, he often hints that a lifetime executive might be better, even as he praises the system with the four-year term.

The Empire of Haiti established in 1804 was also elective.

When it was usual

Arguably the world's oldest method to determine succession was that for the military leader who ascended to power through some sort of election - although, as the kingdoms grew larger and the societies became less egalitarian, the right to vote was restricted to an ever smaller portion of the population (for example local chieftains and/or the nobility).

Many if not most kingdoms were officially elective into historic times, though the candidates were typically only from the family of the deceased monarch. Eventually, however, most elected monarchies introduced hereditary succession, guaranteeing that the title and office stayed within the royal family and specifying, more or less precisely, the order of succession. Hereditary systems probably came into being in order to ensure greater stability and continuity, since the election and the period of interregnum associated with it had often been an opportunity for several ambitious and powerful candidates to "try their chances" in the struggle for the throne, frequently resorting to violent means. In fact, the problem of interregna is typical for monarchy in general, and has only been ameliorated (with a varying degree of success) by the new principle of succession.

Today, almost all monarchies are hereditary monarchies in which the monarchs come from one royal family with the office of sovereign being passed from one family member to another upon the death or abdication of the incumbent.

Female rulers have almost never succeeded in an elective monarchy, while hereditary monarchy seems to have given females more opportunities.


Currently, the world's only true elective monarchies are:
* The Holy See (Vatican City), where the Pope is elected to a life term by (and usually from) the College of Cardinals; in this instance, a hereditary monarchy is theoretically impossible because the Pope must be celibate. [citebook|title=Handbook of Organization Theory and Management: The Philosophical Approach|author=Thomas Dexter Lynch, Todd J. Dicker|year=1998|id=ISBN 0824701135]
* Malaysia, where the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected to a five-year term. Nine hereditary rulers from the Malay States form a Council of Rulers who will determine the next Agong. They use a system of rotation, originally based on seniority, and decisions are made via a secret ballot amongst the council members.
* The Kingdom of Cambodia, in which kings are chosen for a life term by "The Royal Council of the Throne" from candidates of royal blood.
* Kuwait, where the Emir must be ratified by a vote of the parliament.
* The United Arab Emirates, where the President and the Prime Minister are elected by the Emirs, but had been in effect hereditary to the Al Nahyan clan of Abu Dhabi and the Al Maktoum clan of Dubai respectively.

In addition, Andorra could be considered a semi-elective monarchy (or more accurately principality). Andorra's two heads of state are Spain's Bishop of La Seu d'Urgell and, since 1589, the king of France. As the French monarchy has long since been eliminated, the position of co-prince of Andorra falls to the democratically elected President of France.

Swaziland also has a form of quasi-elective monarchy. In Swaziland, no king can appoint his successor. Instead, the royal family decides which of his wives shall be "Great wife" and "Indovukazi" (She-Elephant / Queen Mother). The son of this "Great Wife" will automatically become the next king. The eldest son is "never" appointed successor as he has other ceremonial roles.

The succession to the throne of Saudi Arabia, while hereditary, is not determined by a succession law but rather by consensus of the House of Saud as to who will be Crown Prince; consensus may change depending on the Crown Prince's actions. In effect, this makes the Saudi monarchy elective within the House of Saud, as the king's eldest son often does not become Crown Prince.

Traditional rulers (or "royal fathers", e.g., the Adebonojo, Eze) in Nigeria are usually chosen by a council of kingmakers. New Zealand, where the head of the Maori King Movement, the Maori monarch, is elected by the kaumatua of various New Zealand iwi (tribe). However, every Maori monarch to date had been succeeded by a son or daughter, making it hereditary in effect.

Samoa is widely considered to be either an elective monarchy or a form of aristocratic republic. Malietoa Tanumafili II was head of state until his death in 2007, the constitution stipulates that successors will be elected for five-year terms. The successors are likely to be chosen from one of Samoa's four paramount chiefs (including Malietoa and Tupua Tamasese).

Elective monarchies in fiction

In the prequel trilogy of Star Wars films, there is a planet named Naboo which is an elected monarchy. Padmé Amidala, one of the series' main characters, was elected queen at the age of fourteen but was not the youngest ever to reign. She then went on to serve in the senate of the Galactic Republic. A system of elective monarchy was also present in the Galactic Empire. The next Galactic Emperor was, in theory, to be chosen by the Imperial Senate whenever the throne became vacant. However, the dissolution of the Senate by Palpatine prevented it from ever occurring.

In the Lord Darcy universe, set out in a series of works by Randall Garrett, the Kings of the Anglo-French Empire are elected by Parliament from a small group of eligible members of the Royal Plantagenet family. See Michael Kurland's additions to the canon.

Shakespeare's "Hamlet" is often staged with the assumption that Denmark is or was an elective monarchy (which technically was true of Denmark at the time "Hamlet" was written). A similar system can be read into "Macbeth" to explain why the title character ascended to the throne.

In Hiroyuki Morioka's Crest of the Stars series of science fiction novels, the Abh Empire (Frybarec Gloerh gor Bari) is an elective monarchy. While the ruling monarch (speunaigh) is absolute, he or she is elected by the Dynasty Council from eight eligible royal families and usually doesn't rule for life.

ee also

* Free election
* Papal election
* Papal conclave, 2005
* President for life


External links

*cite web
title=Official Denmark - The Royal House
first=Hans H.
publisher=The Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs

*cite web
title=The Noble Republic, 1572-1795
work=Poland - The Historical Setting
publisher=Polish Academic Information Center, University at Buffalo

*cite book
title=Constitutions, Elections and Legislatures of Poland, 1493-1993
publisher=EJJ Books

*cite news
title=Norway's elective monarchy
work=The New York Times
date=November 16, 1905

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