Constitutional Monarchy vs. Parliamentary System: Take it or Leave it

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Difference between Constitutional Monarchy and Parliamentary System

It is interesting to note that many countries that have previously been governed by the constitutional monarchy system of government have since shifted over to the parliamentary system. While this would seem to suggest that the parliamentary system is an improvement over constitutional monarchy–and it actually is in many ways–keep in mind that the monarchical system has served its purpose for hundreds of years. Let's take a look at what these two forms of government have in common…and how they differ.

Constitutional Monarchy
Parliamentary System

Definition

A constitutional monarchy as practiced is a form of government in which the monarch serves as the head of state, with certain limitations as mandated by written or unwritten laws, or a combination of both. In contrast, an absolute monarchy is one in which the monarch serves as the primary political power in the state, without any constitutional constraints.

As for the parliamentary system, it is a system of government in which ministers from the legislature are assigned to the executive branch, while remaining accountable to the legislature. In such a system, the executive and legislative branches of government are essentially linked, and the head of state is both the country's chief executive and chief legislator.

In Practice

Many constitutional monarchies actually utilize a parliamentary system of government, in which the Monarch typically has only ceremonial functions, although Reserve Powers may be allowed. Many such countries in fact have a prime minister who holds most of the country's political power.

Most countries that follow a parliamentary system of government do not have a clear-cut distinction between the powers of the executive and legislative bodies. This results in a different system of checks and balances compared to that employed by presidential systems of government. What they do often have is a clear distinction between the head of government (which is typically the prime minister or premier), and the head of state, who often functions only as a figurehead.

Issues

One issue that has frequently come up with regard to the constitutional monarchy has to do with the appropriateness of the use of political powers by the monarch. On the one hand, a monarch can be seen as a sort of "interventionist" who can be relied to step in of the country is beleaguered by illegal action of politicians. On the other hand, many monarchs may shy away from any political actions entirely, seeing impartiality as a way to preserve their legitimacy in the eyes of the public.

As for the parliamentary system of government, one frequent criticism is that people who aren't elected to parliament are virtually closed off to the prime minister position, regardless of their popularity with the public. Prime ministers may also be booted out by the parliament, again regardless of the level of public popularity that they enjoy.

Summary

Constitutional Monarchy

  • Is a form of government in which the monarch serves as the head of state, with certain limitations as mandated by written or unwritten laws, or a combination of both
  • Monarch typically has only ceremonial functions

Parliamentary System

  • Is a system of government in which ministers from the legislature are assigned to the executive branch, while remaining accountable to the legislature
  • Employed by many constitutional monarchies as well

Which system considers law more carefully?
  • Constitutional Monarchy
  • Parliamentary System
 
 

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