Elective monarchy

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Elective monarchy describes a monarchy whose ruler is not determined by succession but by election .

Historic elective monarchies

Holy Roman Empire

After the death of Ludwig the Child , the last East Franconian Carolingian , the first king was elected in the East Franconian Empire in 911 . With Konrad I from the Franconian noble family of the Konradines, a non-Carolingian ascended the East Franconian throne for the first time. He was followed in 919 with Heinrich I from the Saxon family of the Liudolfinger, the first non-Franconian on the throne. Heinrich I then put his son Otto through as his successor. With this, the succession within a dynasty became the usual practice in the East Franconian Empire, with the incumbent usually designating his successor . Only when a dynasty died out was it necessary to elect a new king. After the Hohenstaufen dynasty died out, the empire finally developed into an elective monarchy. Originally all imperial princes had the right to elect a king , but from the beginning of the 14th century the right to vote only for electors gradually gained acceptance . Formally, with the Golden Bull of Charles IV , it was finally restricted to seven, and from the end of the 17th century onwards to nine electors.

Since Maximilian I accepted the title of " chosen Roman emperor " , the papal claim to the imperial coronation was suppressed. Charles V , who was elected Roman-German king in 1519 , took on the title of "chosen emperor" after the coronation in Aachen in 1520, but was subsequently crowned as the last emperor by the pope ( Clement VII ) in 1530 . In 1531 his brother Ferdinand I , the successor to Charles V, was elected king.

In general, the election to the Roman-German king was seen as a preliminary stage to attaining the imperial dignity. This remained so until the end of the Holy Roman Empire. The last election by the electoral college took place with the election of Francis II on July 5, 1792. It was not until his coronation on July 14th in Frankfurt that he assumed the title of "chosen emperor".

Although the dignity of emperor from 1438 with one exception ( Charles VII from the House of Wittelsbach ) was always carried by a member of the House of Habsburg until the end of the empire , the empire remained formally an elective monarchy; the electors jealously preserved their right to vote.


Denmark was an electoral monarchy until October 17, 1660 and the Imperial Council elected the king or heir to the throne. In 1660 the elective monarchy was replaced in favor of a hereditary monarchy, this was codified in the new King Law in 1665 .


In the Polish-Lithuanian Empire (1569 to 1795) the king was elected by the nobility , who also had important say in the Sejm . Hence the name aristocratic republic for the Polish Empire occasionally comes from , since the nobility made up over 10% of the population, significantly more than in other countries. Most of the time, the throne was occupied by foreign princes who had little time or interest in interfering in Poland's internal affairs and who also had no domestic power in Poland. In addition to the Liberum Veto and other factors, this led to the decline of the dual state Poland-Lithuania towards the end of the 18th century (→ partitions of Poland ).


Sweden was an elective monarchy until the Diet in Västerås in 1544.

Existing electoral monarchies


Every five years the nine sultans of Malaysia appoint one of their midst to be the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (this title is given in the West as Supreme Leader , but more often as King ). Traditionally the title rotates among the sultanates. Since Malaysia is a parliamentary monarchy, the king has mainly representative duties.


In the electoral monarchy of Cambodia , the king is elected for life by the nine-man throne council. The monarch must come from the families of Ang Duong , Norodom or Sisowath and has primarily representative and symbolic tasks. He formally appoints the head of government elected by parliament and appoints the other cabinet members on his proposal.

United Arab Emirates

The seven emirs of the United Arab Emirates elect a head of state from among their ranks, who receives the title of president . Traditionally, the respective Emir of Abu Dhabi is elected to this position, and the Emir of Dubai is traditionally head of government.

Since the parliament of the UAE only has an advisory role, the position of the Emir-President is quite strong.

Special countries


The Principality of Andorra is not a direct electoral monarchy, but a condominate between the French head of state (as the historical successor to the Counts of Foix , later the kings of Navarre ) and the Bishop of Urgell . Andorran rule, the "principality", is not based on Andorran elections, but on the succession of the two rulers. Of these, however, the president (by the French, not by the Andorran people) is directly elected, his Andorran office begins and ends by virtue of these elections, as is that of the bishop of the Spanish Urgell by papal election or recall.

Vatican city

The Pope is the Bishop of Rome ex officio head of state of the Vatican City State and also an independent subject of international law (Holy See).

His election in the conclave of the cardinals is, however, constitutionally not located in the state of the Vatican City, but canonically in the Catholic Church. Under constitutional law, it is not the citizens who elect the head of state, but the conclave elects him for them. The form of government in Vatican City is that of an absolute electoral monarchy due to the all-encompassing judicial , legislative and executive power of the Pope . The election is for life and only ends with death or resignation .

Social science perspectives on electoral monarchies

The social anthropologist Max Gluckman highlighted the regular and often costly struggles for succession in electoral monarchies, which in Europe often promoted the transition to a hereditary monarchy , in an ambivalent double function. It is true that murderous social conflicts ( civil wars ) can occur, but on the other hand these are also suitable for constantly strengthening the central monarchy as an institution and thus the cohesion of a state people and territory. In terms of political sociology, these regular succession disputes bind the elites (according to Vilfredo Pareto, “elite” and “ reserve elite ”) of a society to one another and avoid secessions .

Comparable analysis approaches can also dynastic Erbkämpfe outside constitutional law monarchies transferred, about companies in family ownership. Among other things, the disputes between Richard Wagner's descendants over the management of the Bayreuth Festival are known here .


  1. ^ Constitution of 1993 ( Memento of January 24, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) (pdf, English). Choice for life = Article 7; Council of Thrones = Article 13
  2. Article 14 of the Constitution
  3. ^ Andreas Neuhauser: Cambodia . Reise-Know-How, Bielefeld 2003, ISBN 3-8317-1106-2 .
  4. ^ Fischer World Almanac 2006 . Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2005. ISBN 3-596-72006-0 .
  5. Articles 19 and 100
  6. § 1399 CIC ( Memento of July 20, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  7. Max Gluckman, Custom and conflict in Africa , cf. a. Tilman Grottian, Systems Theory Approaches by Max Gluckman , LIT, Münster / Hamburg 1994, ISBN 3-89473-645-3 .
  8. For farms, these consequences (regionally) were taken into account in the German legal system through the inheritance law .
  9. See Jonathan Carr: Der Wagner-Clan , dt. V. Hermann Küsterer, Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 2008.