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This article is written by Parth Verma, a student of the School of Law, Christ University, Bengaluru. This article seeks to explain the difference between a monarchy and a dictatorship. In addition, it aims to determine which system is better among the two and their global presence in current times. 

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

In recent years, there has been significant growth in the adoption of the democratic form of government all over the world. Countries have now realized the need for people’s participation in governance to ensure their welfare. Yet, there are still several countries in the world in which democracy is still not followed. In such countries, either there is the rule of a king (monarchy) or a dictator (dictatorship) who has the sole authority and control over the entire country. Both these systems are considered to violate the rights of citizens, though in several countries there are certain exceptions to this notion. There is no legally elected government under these systems. The country is run entirely at the whims and fancies of the ruler who could be a king or a dictator. They have the power to make laws without any consultation, and the people would be forced to obey them.

As observed, these two systems almost seem to be the same in hindsight and have the same adverse impact on any nation. However, if observed minutely, there exist several differences between these systems of governance. This article seeks to look into all these differences and determine which one would be better in the context of any particular country. In this way, it will also answer the very important question of whether democracy should be considered in such countries.

Meaning

Monarchy

A monarchy is a system of governance under which there is a king or a queen who has the absolute power of governance and decision-making in that particular country. The term monarchy is a word that has been derived from the Greek word ‘monarkhia’ which means ‘alone’. In the case of a monarchy, the succession of the kings takes place as a matter of heredity, i.e., only the members of the royal family can succeed in becoming the king or queen and ruling over the people. No other person from outside that family could become a monarch. 

Dictatorship

A dictatorship is a form of government in which there is a single leader or a group of leaders who assert their authority over the people of that country. The person who dictates the laws of that country is known as the dictator. The term ‘dictator’ has been derived from an office in Rome, which was only a temporary position kept for one person to have the absolute authority to make the rules in the event of an emergency. Unlike in a monarchy, however, the powers are not transferred to the dictator as a matter of their heredity. This power is usurped from the lawfully elected government by a military coup or through a collective revolt by a group of people who then assert their control. 

Features

Monarchy

In a monarchy, the monarch has the absolute power to make laws. It is still prevalent in a large number of countries. The features of a monarchy are as follows:

  1. Under this system, there is generally only one person who acts as the monarch. Though two monarchs can also rule simultaneously in a given country, it is known as a Diarchy. 
  2. It is a family-based system of rule. In other words, only the members of any given family succeed in assuming the position of the monarch.
  3. If the family member who is to succeed after the death of the previous monarch is a minor or is debilitated, then the regent can rule in that given situation. The ceremonial beginning of the monarch is known as a coronation.
  4. The monarch can have various titles. For example, in European countries, a monarch is given the title of king or queen, emperor or empress, duke or duchess. On the other hand, in the Middle Eastern Muslim nations, the monarch is known as the Caliph, Sultan, or Malik. 
  5. There are two types of monarchic systems which are absolute monarchy and constitutional monarchy (or a limited monarchy). 
  1. Absolute monarchy refers to a system in which the monarch has the supreme authority to govern the nation and to make laws. The monarch has unrestricted powers in this system.
  2. In the case of a Constitutional monarchy, the monarch is required to exercise his powers as per the provisions stated within the constitution of that country. There are several restrictions that might be imposed on the monarch in this system. Most of the time, the monarch only has some ceremonial powers.

Dictatorship

Under this system, the power to make the rules is solely in the hands of the leader or dictator. Dictatorship has the following features:

  1. In a dictatorship, power is concentrated in only one person, who is the single leader. The leader is then supposed to represent all the people in that country.
  2. The powers of dictatorship are assumed by the use of force on the part of the leader. They either carry out a military coup or revolt to overthrow the existing leader or the government. 
  3. Dictatorship is completely totalitarian in nature. It means that a complete influence is imposed by the dictator on all aspects of the human activity and personality of all citizens in the nation.
  4. The dictator brainwashes the minds of the citizens that they are the most superior people as compared to the rest of the world. This is also known as Racialism. Hence, a dictator has to be a good orator if he/she aims to influence the people.
  5. A dictator is not elected by the process of voting. As a result, a dictator may or may not have majority support but due to their military power, they impose their control over the citizens of the country.
  6. There are different types of dictatorship, which are military dictatorship, single party dictatorship, personalist dictatorship, and hybrid dictatorship.
  1. Military dictatorship refers to a regime in which the leaders, or the group of officers holding power, are the military officials and lead the country. Under this form of dictatorship, there is a rule of the professionalized military as an institution. The officers under this system are known as Junta Members.
  2. Single Party dictatorship refers to a regime in which there is only one political party that dominates over the given nation. This group of officers has complete control over the selection of the party members and makes the policies for the benefit of only the party supporters.
  3. Personalist dictatorship is the most common form of dictatorship in which power is concentrated within a single individual. The dictator might be a member of the military or any party, but the difference is that they have complete control over all institutions and it is not divided between the different persons.
  4. Hybrid dictatorship is a blend of the qualities present in all three previous types. The most common form of such a dictatorship is the personalist hybrid dictatorship.

Method of seizing power

Monarchy

There is no process of the seizure of power in the case of the monarchy. The power is in the hands of the royal family staying in that given country, the members of which become the monarchs. It is based on a family tradition in which a member from the same family succeeds the previous monarch. The power to rule is generally accepted among the citizens. and as a result, they don’t seize the power. It is a tradition that has been prevailing for a long period of time.

Dictatorship

In a dictatorial system, power is generally seized by the dictator or the group of leaders, either through a military coup or a collective revolt of the group of leaders. The powers are seized either from the existing government or from the monarch, generally through an attack on their army. Hence, power in a dictatorship is seized by a protest or a revolt by a person or a group of persons to seize the powers from the existing government.

Control

Monarchy

The control in a monarchy system lies in the hands of the monarch, or the king, or the queen. They can frame the laws of the country and can also control the activities of their citizens. However, the magnitude of control declines in the case of a constitutional monarchy. Under this system, the Constitution ideally has complete control over the king as well as the people of that country. The powers of the monarch are limited in a Constitutional monarchy and they are bound by the Constitutional provisions. However, in a non-sovereign monarchy, the monarch can be subjected to the authority of some person having higher authority. An example of such a system in the monarchy could be the puppet leaders of the Princely States of India during British Rule. They were allowed to control the state but had to work under the authority of British Colonial rule. 

Dictatorship

In the case of a dictatorship, full control over the citizens is in the hands of the dictator. A dictator can make and enforce the laws as per their whims and fancies. The government going to rule the nation would be presided over by the dictator in case there were a group of leaders. The military control would also completely lie in the hands of the dictator. In a dictatorship, unlike a monarchy, the dictator is submissive or accountable to any other individual or a group of leaders. They have absolute authority over the nation in all possible circumstances. There is absolutely no division of powers among the different individuals. Even those who have the authority are directly answerable to the dictator, i.e., they would always be subordinate to the dictator.

People’s satisfaction

Monarchy

Since in the system of monarchy, the king has complete control over the citizens, they might feel that their rights are being violated. This is generally what happens in any monarchy. Freedom of the citizens is inhibited and the system also leads to a class divide, i.e., the population gets divided into the privileged, which includes the royal family and their subjects, and the commoners, who suffer due to the monarchy. The people in most countries following this system aren’t satisfied as they don’t enjoy any freedom and their rights are outrightly violated under this system.

However, this is not always the case. In certain countries, the monarch is considerate of the needs and rights of the people. As a result, they lead the people towards the development of the country at large and are not driven by the motive of their self benefits. The most recent example is the system of monarchy in Bhutan. The people are satisfied with the monarch and during the regime of the current king, the crime rate has been on a decline, the country has achieved carbon neutrality, and the employment rate is also on a continuous rise, thereby making it the happiest country in the world. Hence, the people might not be satisfied with a system of monarchy, but there are certain exceptions to it. Even for those who are unhappy, the situation is not as bad as for those who are living under the regime of a dictator.

Dictatorship

The dictator, as explained in the previous section, aims to promote racialism among the people, which creates a feeling of the superiority of one community over the other. As a result, those who don’t belong to the community of the dictator face a lot of discrimination. Many a time, they even become the victims of genocide because they are considered impure by the dictator. Yet, for the rest of the citizens, they would become the beneficiaries of all the privileges that would be provided to them by the dictator. 

The most appropriate example of dictatorship is that of Adolf Hitler. He was the dictator of present-day Germany and Austria and considered the German Aryans to be the most superior community. As a result, he highly discriminated against the Jews living in Germany and also carried out mass killings or genocide of the Jews to make the community extinct. Many Jews lost their lives and many were forced to migrate to other nations in order to save themselves. Even for the people of the same community, certain injustices might be imposed upon them which could go against their interests. Most of the people, if not all, are not satisfied at all under this system, and unlike monarchy, there are no exceptions to it in the world till now. Hence, in this system, people might need to face greater atrocities in comparison to the system of monarchy. 

Relevance of the Constitution

Monarchy

In a monarchy, the constitution may or may not be relevant. When the monarch has absolute authority over the citizens, he/she might not create an entire Constitution but only make some general rules to be conveyed to the people. Yet, they can still create a Constitution if they wish to do so. However, even the constitution would contain the same rules as had been envisaged by the monarch. 

In a Constitutional monarchy, however, the constitution holds a lot of relevance. The powers and the role of the monarch are defined in the Constitution, which he/she can’t exceed in any given situation. Further, the rights of the people are appropriately guaranteed with the help of the Constitution. Hence, the Constitution holds a lot of relevance in a Constitutional monarchy but in an absolute monarchy, the rule of the king is given primary importance.

Dictatorship

In a dictatorial system, the constitution is made by the leader himself to fulfil his/her aspirations. A dictator, in other words, is not bound by the Constitution and can rather make the Constitution by themselves. They can only focus on promoting their propaganda and ideologies through the Constitution if they make one. Another reason for making a constitution by a dictator is to emphasize his supreme leadership and the concentration of power of all organs of the government in his/her hands. As a result, the Constitution doesn’t hold much relevance in a dictatorial regime. 

Examples

Monarchy

  1. The most prevalent example of monarchy in current times is the Royal Family in the United Kingdom. Queen Elizabeth II assumed the position of the monarch seven decades ago and is still holding it. However, since the United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy, the powers of the queen are limited and fixed by the Constitution. The basic principles of human rights are followed and there is no control or influence of the queen over the people, which could possibly violate their rights. As a result, the position of the queen is more ceremonial in nature with the Constitution being the binding authority.As a result, there is no issue of violation of citizens’ rights because it is a well-framed constitution based on the guiding principles of liberty, equality, sovereignty, etc. The people are satisfied under this system and the country is still thriving.
  2. Saudi Arabia is also a monarchy that is based on the Islamic religion. It’s a form of absolute monarchy that is completely totalitarian. This monarchy is headed by the King, who has control over the military and is also the legal custodian of the mosques in that given region. Below him in the hierarchy is the Crown Prince. The primary function of a Crown Prince is to help the King in the performance of all his duties effectively. At the same time, they are in line to become the successor immediately after the King. Nobody in the country is allowed to criticize the King or the government. This acts as a major restriction on the Freedom of Speech and Expression of the citizens since they aren’t allowed to dissent or disagree with the existing government. If they do so, they might be executed or sent to jail. Saudi Arabia has also received global criticism for not providing women with equal rights as compared to males in society, which is a highly regressive and patriarchal mindset in current times. The King of Saudi Arabia is Salman Al Saud, who assumed the reign in 2015. Under the reign of the Saudi Arabian Kings, the people have not been very satisfied and have been subjected to a large number of atrocities. Press freedom and creative liberty are also taken away from  journalists and they are always facing the risk of being punished if they speak anything against the King.
  3. Japan is also an example of a Constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary form of government. The monarchy is headed by the Emperor, who is the principal symbol of the Japanese State. They essentially rule the country but the Constitution has the binding authority in the nation. The current monarch of Japan ‘Naruhito’ has had his education in the United Kingdom and is well aware of the new world standards to take the country ahead. The country has a Prime Minister who heads the executive department of the Japanese government and is also the Commander in Chief of the Army. The current Prime Minister of Japan is ‘Fumio Kishida’ and is elected by the Emperor of the country. The Prime Minister exercises his powers as has been laid down in the Constitution which includes certain Statutory and Constitutional roles. The citizens are highly satisfied with the Constitutional monarchy in Japan and there is absolutely no violation of their rights. In the survey conducted in 1997 by Asahi Shimbun, it was determined that around 82% of the total citizens in Japan were in support of the system of Constitutional monarchy that was being followed. This was so because people believed that the system even brought them closer to their ancestors, history, and spiritual core. Hence, there is no question about the levels of satisfaction of the people in the Constitutional monarchy of Japan.

Dictatorship

  1. The most important example of dictatorship in current times is the rule of Kim Jong Un in North Korea. It is a form of dynastic dictatorship in which the last three generations of the Kim family have been ruling the country. The dictators have over the years increased their powers by purging many top officials and consolidating their control by bringing changes to the Constitution. The Elections in the country take place, but the citizens have no choice but to vote for the party headed by the dictator as there is no other competing party. The King resorts to absolute totalitarian policies which are highly unfair to the citizens and lead to the concentration of wealth of the nation among a few elites. The country is among one of the poorest nations in the world, and a large number of people during the pandemic died due to starvation. Even certain basic human rights aren’t provided to the people in North Korea. They don’t have any form of access to the rest of the world and are also not allowed to leave their country. As a result, it is also known as a ‘Hermit Kingdom’ which is segregated from the rest of the world. As a result, in such a form of dictatorship, the people are certainly not satisfied and even the Constitution doesn’t hold much relevance.
  2. Vietnam, a country located in the eastern part of Asia, is an example of a one-party dictatorship in which there are no direct elections at the national level. The nature of the elections is highly influenced by the monopoly or the influence of the Communist party on the people of Vietnam, limitations on free speech, and interference in the elections. There is only one party that contests the elections, as a result of which it becomes a form of dictatorship, even if it is indirect. The country follows the principle of Communism, and hence the sole party is the Communist Party of Vietnam. However, the people in Vietnam don’t enjoy much freedom, as shown in the Freedom in the World Index, 2022, published by the organization Freedom House. The country was declared to be not free in this index. The basic rights of the people are still being violated. However, in the last few years, the situation has been continuously improving. There has been rapid growth in the agricultural sector as well as in information technology, making Vietnam one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Hence, the situation in Vietnam under a one-party dictatorship is much better in comparison to the dictatorship being followed in North Korea.
  3. As mentioned previously, the regime of Adolf Hitler is the prime example of dictatorship in the world. He indulged in mass killings of the Jews and spread his propaganda of the supremacy of the blue-eyed German Aryans all over the world. His acts later were highly criticized and the Jews were killed in gas chambers. He tested them in the camps by doing various experiments on them, and, as a result, the hardships being faced by the Jews owing to it were gruesome. The Jewish children were separated from their families and due to starvation, they also had to face death. Hence, the situation for Jews was adverse in Germany during Hitler’s regime.
Criteria Monarchy Dictatorship
Meaning It refers to a system of government in which the monarch has the absolute power to make laws. It refers to a system in which a leader or a group of leaders rules over the citizens of a country and imposes their rules and will upon them.
Method to seize power The power to rule over the citizens is given to the monarch through a hierarchical system prevailing in the royal family. The power in the case of dictatorship is seized either by pulling a military coup or a collective revolt.
Types Monarchy can be divided into two types namely constitutional monarchy and absolute monarchy. A dictatorship can be divided into various types such as military dictatorship, personalist dictatorship, hybrid dictatorship, and single-party dictatorship.
Satisfaction among people The citizens may or may not be satisfied with a monarchy, depending primarily upon the type of monarchy and the pursued policies by the monarch. Only the majority community or the community of which the dictator is a part would be satisfied since the policies framed would be in their favour. The rest of the population would  be subjected to discrimination.
Control The control of the monarch might be absolute or might not be in a constitutional monarchy wherein they are bound by the powers conferred on them in the Constitution. The dictator is going to have absolute power to control the citizens and make the laws in that country.
Examples United Kingdom, Bhutan, Japan North Korea, Vietnam, and Laos

Both dictatorship and monarchy are forms of government that are generally seen against the democratic system of governance. In the past, it was used by the royal families just to fulfil their personal needs. Yet some monarchs certainly thought of the welfare of the people and peace due to which the monarchy has still survived in countries such as Bhutan. In a monarchy system in the country of Bhutan, the King still follows the democratic principles of liberty, equality, fraternity, and the freedom of the people, due to which the system has still been accepted by the citizens of the country. On the other hand, in Saudi Arabia, the people are discontent with the monarchy being followed there. They are deprived of their basic human rights.

From this comparison of different monarchies, it could be determined that it is not always necessary to have a Republican system to provide the people with basic human rights or ensure their social participation. It can be ensured under any system of governance that the protection and promotion of democratic principles and values of liberty, equality, and fraternity are the most appropriate means to achieve the same. However, the same can’t be ensured in a dictatorship since the dictator is not bound by any other individual. It is generally not possible for a dictator to respect the equality of all communities because they have propaganda to promote racialism or give preference to a particular race over another. Equality and peace can’t be ensured in a dictatorship and can certainly not be ensured as the dictator himself assumes power with the use of force.

Hence, in all possible circumstances, a monarchy would be better from the point of view of the citizens as compared to a dictatorship. This is so because, in a monarchy, there is still some possibility of the protection of people’s rights as the monarch himself might be bound by the Constitution in the case of a Constitutional monarchy. However, this is certainly not possible in a dictatorship, as preference would always be given to one community over the other by the dictator. To address all the problems that exist in both these systems, democracy could be an effective solution because it ensures the proper participation of the people in the process of decision-making. Hence, there is no scope for the violation of their rights because then the responsibility would be on the state to uphold the rights of the citizens. Therefore, a democracy or a republican system of governance is better than both these systems, but if dictatorship and monarchy are compared, the monarchy would always be preferred because it is slightly better in terms of protection of citizens’ rights.

Which are the countries that still follow monarchy?

Some of the countries following monarchy in the current times are Bhutan, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Jordan.

What is a Constitutional monarchy?

A constitutional monarchy refers to the system in which the monarch has the authority as has been defined in the Constitution of that country. Hence they don’t have uncontrollable authority.

Which countries still follow dictatorship?

Dictatorship is still prevalent in the countries of North Korea, Vietnam, and Myanmar which is the most recent case of Military dictatorship. 


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