Difference Between Monarchy and Republic

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Both the monarchy and the republic are systems of government. However, the republic is opposed to the monarchy in the way of governing.

In the monarchy, the head of state remains in power for life, or even abdicates. In the republic, the head of state is democratically elected for a certain period of time.

In a monarchy, with the exception of elective monarchies, which are not so common today, heredity is an important factor. In the regime, the sons of monarchs are their successors. In the republic, new heads of state are elected by the people after a term that usually lasts about four or five years.

A monarch is also given the title of king or queen, prince or princess, grand duke or grand duchess, emperor or empress, among other appellations. In the republic, the head of state is called the president of the republic.

In the case of a presidential republic, the president will be head of state and government. However, in a parliamentary republic, the head of government is often called the prime minister.

The president in parliamentarism is seen as a symbolic figure with limited powers. For this reason, it is a system very similar to the constitutional monarchy, but with a change of head of state after a definite term of office.

Monarchy Republic
Concept Form of government in which the head of state remains in power for life or even resigns from office. Form of government in which the head of state is democratically chosen for a term with a defined duration.
Head of state Monarch. President of the Republic, or just president.
  • sacred or religious
  • Feudal
  • absolute
  • parliamentary or constitutional
  • Elective
  • Federal
  • Popular
  • subnational
  • merchants
  • Protestants
  • liberals
  • socialists
  • Communists
  • Islamic
  • Federal
Countries Practicing There are 44 monarchies still in force in the world, 43 of which are States recognized by the United Nations (UN). Most of the sovereign states recognized by the UN today are republics.
  • UK
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Netherlands
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Brazil
  • USA
  • India
  • Germany
  • Pakistan
  • Argentina

What is Monarchy?

Monarchy is a form of government in which the head of state remains in power for life or even abdicates from office. It is the oldest form of government in effect on the planet.

Generally, the monarch has the title of king or queen and his position is hereditary. That is, your children are your successors.

Despite periods of history in which there were absolutist monarchies, currently the most common type of monarchy is the constitutional monarchy. In this form of monarchy, the king or queen has no power over the government, being just a political figure.

In the case of the constitutional monarchy, the government is headed by the prime minister. Generally elected democratically.

However, among the various monarchies still in force, there is the elective monarchy. In it, the sovereign is chosen for the office, unlike constitutional monarchies, in which the new kings and queens are their direct descendants. Examples: Vatican, Cambodia and Malaysia.

Nowadays, constitutional monarchies are the most common, as is the case in the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, among others. However, there are still absolute monarchies, present in countries like Oman and Saudi Arabia.

Origin of the Monarchy

The term “monarch” comes from the Latin monarcha, which in turn is derived from the Greek. In the Greek language, the word is a combination of the terms singular and leader.

The monarchy is reminiscent of even ancient tribal groups. It can be seen in peoples since antiquity, who exercised this form of government in different ways.

Despite being the oldest existing form of government in the world, the monarchy is in decay. From 1800 onwards, absolute monarchies were abolished in several countries. This is due to the influence of the French Revolution and also the Napoleonic Wars, which weakened this type of government.

However, the monarchic system effectively fell into decay after World War I, which brought to an end the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian empires.

Types of Monarchy

  • Religious Monarchy

The sacred or religious monarchy is the oldest type of monarchy in the world. Ancient peoples, such as the Egyptians and the Aztecs, had this form of government.

These peoples saw the figure of the monarch as a deity, chosen by superior beings to exercise the function. Being of divine origin, the king in a sacred or religious monarchic culture had unlimited power.

  • Feudal Monarchy

Common in the Middle Ages, the feudal monarchy began to spread across Europe due to the need to have a figure with great power. This in order to improve the defense of territories at a time when invasions and wars were frequent.

However, the power of a monarch during this period was not entirely unlimited. The king needed agreements between the feudal lords so that they could exercise power.

Feudal lords, in turn, held control over tracts of land and individuals. Thus, the king exercised power through the will of these lords. Therefore, it can be said that conflicts of interest could trigger problems in this form of monarchy.

  • Absolute Monarchy

In an absolute monarchy, the king had full control over the executive and legislative branches. This form of monarchy became more common from the 16th century onwards, when the feudal regime began to decline in Europe.

With feudalism in decline, the bourgeoisie could benefit from a strong sovereign figure. This is because it could maintain order and provide the strengthening of commerce, on which many bourgeois depended to maintain the standard of living they had been achieving.

However, over time, the figure of the king as a leader who governs alone came to be questioned by the bourgeois and other citizens themselves. Because they also intend to be part of the country’s government, being consulted on decision-making.

Under the pressure of the middle class on the absolute monarchies, they were gradually replaced in Europe by the parliamentary monarchy.

  • Parliamentary or Constitutional Monarchy

In a parliamentary or constitutional monarchy, the king reigns but does not govern. This means that it is below the Executive and Legislative Powers, having to respect them. In this sense, the laws and orders of these powers shape not only the government, but the actions and functions of the monarch himself.

The Constitution, in turn, must come from the people. This will then define the rules to which society submits and which should be the basis for government. Generally, the government is chaired by the prime minister, who is a democratically elected figure.

In a constitutional or parliamentary monarchy, the figure of the monarch is reduced to ensuring that all state institutions are functioning. Thus, the king would be the personification of the authority of the state, commanded by the prime minister.

According to the rules established by each country, the succession of the monarch can be hereditary or elective.

It is common for heredity to still be taken into account in most countries where constitutional monarchy is a reality but not the rule. An example of a hereditary monarchy is that of Japan. The Vatican, on the other hand, has an elective monarchy.

  • Elective Monarchy

In an elective monarchy, the figure of the monarch is chosen by a council. Countries employing this form of government are rare, but it also emerged during the Middle Ages. At that time, kings in states of elective monarchy were selected by princes and other high-ranking members of the court.

The elected monarchs also hold power throughout their lives.

Currently, the Vatican is an elective monarchy, with the monarch being the figure of the Pope. This holds power throughout life. After his death, he is replaced by another monarch through a vote at the Conclave, held by the College of Cardinals.

In addition to these types of monarchy, there are some other forms. Among them, the federal monarchy can be highlighted, in which several federal states have a single monarch as head of state, in the case of Canada.

There is also the popular monarchy, in which the king would be chosen by the people.

There are still, in force in several countries, subnational monarchies. These are monarchies established within recognized countries.

Therefore, they do not have the status of sovereign states, but they have a recognized monarchy. The case of Tibet, China, which has the Dalai Lama as its monarch; and from Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, where the monarch holds the title of sultan.

What is a Republic?

Currently, there are two types of republic: presidential or parliamentary, the republic being a form of government in which the head of state is chosen by the people. However, time on the job is generally limited to four or five years. Typically, the number of terms is also limited.

The head of state is selected for the mandate based on a free and secret vote.

There are different republics, so policy rules may vary slightly depending on the country. However, nowadays, the republic is seen as a type of government that must be based on equality between people.

Republics in the world
Republics in the world. In red, presidential republics. In dark green, republics where power is divided between the president and parliament. In light green, semi-presidential republics. In orange, parliamentary republics. In brown, one-party republics.
(Image: Ovigilante / Wikimedia Commons)

Furthermore, whoever exercises political power must be chosen by the people, representative in character, for a limited time and with responsibility.

It is also worth mentioning that there are republics with dictatorial characteristics. This is the case of Cuba and China, which are not countries officially defined as dictatorships, but have typical features of this form of governmental regime.

Both countries carry the term “republic” in their official name. However, contrary to democracy, there is persecution l of people linked to the opposition to the government and extreme control of the press and freedom of expression. This leads to these countries being often linked to the dictatorship.

Origin of the Republic

The word “republic” comes from the Latinres publica, which means public thing.

Thus, the Latin writer Cicero defined three fundamental characteristics for this type of government to be possible:

  • Multitude: Reasonable amount of people;
  • Community: Group of individuals with common interests;
  • Consensus of Law.

With these three characteristics, Cicero claims that the three pillars of a republic emerge:

  • A free people;
  • Senate Authority;
  • Civil power of magistrates.

Many use republic as a synonym for “democracy“, but in antiquity there were definite rules about who could participate in state decision-making. For example, women and slaves were left out.

However, there were several republics, which presented government characteristics quite different from those of the Modern Age. These republics are called “classical republics”, which include the city-states of Greece, such as Sparta and Athens.

There was also the Roman Republic, which with the expansion of the Roman people around the Mediterranean Sea later became the Roman Empire. In this way, some ancient republics were taken over by empires or became empires.

Despite the transformations in the centuries that followed, most historians consider the ancient republics very important. For they would be crucial for the construction of republics as we know them today.

This is because authors of great influence, l such as Machiavelli and Montesquieu, spoke about alternative forms of government to the monarchy. His works became of great value for the understanding of the republics.

Types of Republic

In addition to the ancient classical republics, there have been some distinct types of republic throughout history. Below, the main ones are highlighted:

  • Mercantile Republics: Common in the Middle Ages, when the merchant class acquired political power;
  • Protestant Republics: Where certain countries used the Protestant Reformation to institute a form of republic.
  • Liberal Republics: In which freedom and equality for all before the law are the main premises.
  • Socialist and Communist Republics: had or have the ideals of socialism and communism as their foundation.
  • Islamic Republics: Are those that have assumed the Islamic religion as part of the republic, in which the majority of the population is Muslim.
  • Parliamentary Republics: Basically function as a constitutional monarchy, but the role of the king is replaced by that of the president, who has a mandate for a certain period of time, limited powers and is seen as a symbolic figure. The head of government is the prime minister.
  • Federative Republic: When several autonomous territories with their own government unite to form a federation, called the Federal State. The Federative Republic of Brazil itself is an example, being formed by 26 states and the Federal District. That is, 27 federative units.

Monarchy and Republic

Today, the term “republic” generally refers to a system of government of power originating from the people. Many even use the word “republic” as a synonym for democracy. However, there are republics with characteristics of dictatorial government, repression of the opposition and freedom of expression.

Therefore, it is generally wrong to relate the term to democracy.

The republic would be a form of government opposed to the monarchy, in which the power would emanate from heredity or would be of “divine” origin. It is worth mentioning that, however, in current monarchies, power can also originate in the Constitution.

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