Elective monarchy – What it is, definition and concept

An elective monarchy is a form of government in which power is held by the king, but unlike the hereditary, this is chosen by a part of the population.

A characteristic element of the monarchy is that power passes from some kings to others in a hereditary way, usually between men. But the elective monarchy breaks with that principle, since the king is chosen by the people. The monarchies of this type that we know are nowhere near democracies, even if the king has to be put to a vote.

The monarchies that have followed this principle have been very few throughout history. And although it seems that democracy is approaching by the election of the king, nothing could be further from the truth.

The candidate for king must meet a series of characteristics, any citizen of the country cannot be elected, but must meet requirements of blood, status, attributes, etc.

It should also be noted that not the entire population, contrary to what happens in democratic systems, elects this figure. Universal suffrage is not used, but those who elect the king also meet certain requirements, such as belonging to a higher class or a body of power within the country.

Characteristics of the elective monarchy

The only distinguishing feature of this type of monarchy is the election of the king.

In hereditary monarchies (the vast majority), the king is the first-born of his predecessor. Although, in some cases, the law has been enabled for the monarch’s daughter to govern in the absence of a baron, as happened in Spain in the 19th century after the death of Fernando VII.

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As we mentioned earlier, this is not a free choice. Not any citizen can stand as a candidate for king, nor can anyone vote. This only happens in democracies, with the election of heads of state or government, depending on the configuration of the political regime.

Regarding the rights and freedoms enjoyed by citizens of elective monarchies, these will vary depending on their system of government. If we look at the examples of antiquity, like any other system, the provision of freedoms was minimal. That is, a monarchical regime, to be democratic, does not depend on whether the king is elected or not, it depends on whether it is an absolute, constitutional or parliamentary monarchy.

Examples of elective monarchy

Let’s see, briefly, some relevant examples of elective monarchies:

  • Visigoths: It is one of the oldest examples that we have. The Visigoths invaded the Iberian Peninsula and expelled the Romans throughout the 5th century. Their government regime was monarchical, it was an elective monarchy. This monarchy was variable, there were many attempts to absolutize it and break with the tradition of the election. The candidate king was either from the royal family or a person who could not belong to numerous other groups. And it was up to the Assembly of Free Men to choose the monarch.
  • Andorra: The Andorran country has a very particular configuration, it is a parliamentary principality whose democracy is full. Now, who is the prince of Andorra? He has two, the Bishop of Urgel and the President of the French Republic. Its relationship with the elective monarchy comes from the fact that one of its princes, the president of France, is elected by French citizens by universal suffrage.
  • Vatican: The head of the State of the Vatican is the Pope, and this one is chosen by the cardinals of the conclave. The candidate for pope, according to the Church, can be any baptized person, although in practice they are members of the Church of high rank. But he is not elected by all those who profess the Catholic faith, but rather by the conclave, whose composition is one hundred and twenty (120) cardinals.
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