The Monarch at the helm of the State

Djurdje Ninkovic


Your Royal Highnesses, distinguished members of advisory boards of the Crown and guests,

It is wrong to challenge the system of the State, in a way that the Republican system is opposite to the Monarchist one. That will only heat up the argument between monarchists and republicans. Nevertheless, very few understand the real nature of this question, because both parties are talking about monarchies from times long gone, when kings were generals and rulers without dispute, and republicans were citizen’s movement fighting for liberation from absolute power of the monarch, that sometimes borders with tyranny.

No European Constitutional monarchy of 21st century is no tyranny, since they are the states with highest democratic standards and extremely high level of human rights, social protection of their citizens included. Beside Sweden, Norway, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and United Kingdom, the same could be said for monarchies in Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan. All these monarchies have developed through constitutional evolution, during which royal prerogatives have been transferred to parliament and government, so today, at the end of this process, monarchs stay at the helm of the state, but without power.

So, what is their role then?

Some of European republics that have a monarchist tradition seriously contemplate advantages of the monarchy. The question is whether is better to have a monarch or elected official as the head of state.

When the president of the republic and members of the parliament, who then vote for the government have been elected at general elections, then we have two seats of power, with both having political power and legitimacy provided by the elections. Due to that, it can occur that one of these take over the prerogatives and duties of the other. In our country, where currently the president and the parliament majority are from the same party, i.e. coalition around that party, there is mixed jurisdiction, so what is not clear is the foreign policy being run from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or from the President’s cabinet. Also, the policy towards Kosovo and Metohija has been created by President’s cabinet, but also by the parliament and the government. Although there can be a question of respecting the constitution, and legal system can be raised, that mixed jurisdiction should not be a political problem if the President of the Republic has the support from the Parliamentary majority. In that case, disrespect of constitution and mixed jurisdiction could paralyze the state and cause a constitutional crisis.

On the other hand, if the monarch is the head of state, he cannot be involved neither in policy creation nor the implementation of the policy. It would be quite clear that political and governing power reside with the parliament and the government.

There have been preparations going on in our country for changing the constitution, so there is an opportunity to reconsider in a serious way what is best for the country – to have elected official or the monarch as a head of state. Elected official, to be elected, must run a political campaign or to be a member of political party, so there is a question would he or she do their duty in the best interest of all the citizens or in the interest of political party. Also, there is a question of being accepted by all as a president, or viewed as political opponent.

The Monarch as a head of state would not have any obligation toward political parties, and would be accepted by the people as symbol of the state.

To achieve this, it is not necessary to call elections or a referendum, because even a small number of votes would give political significance to unsuccessful candidate. Especially so if number of votes exceed half of the electorate, which would bring us to the same situation as with elected president.  The Monarch should head of state by historic rights. That historic right should be confirmed by Parliament. In that way, the Monarch would become head of state without political power, i.e. without power to implement politics and make political decisions.

The Monarch would be the symbol of the state above all. He would be the symbol of continuity of the nation, the state and the people. No one would have the right or a reason to criticize the symbol, i.e. the state, but would have to direct criticism towards the government and ruling parties.

The Monarch would save time for politicians, because he would perform all protocol duties, receiving accreditations from foreign ambassadors, other protocol duties, receiving foreign heads of state, visiting foreign countries and attending domestic events.

Today politicians are running to cut a ribbon at the opening of a new bridge, new road or a new school, and to gain media visibility and reputation on taxpayers’ money. These obligations should be taken by the Monarch, as a symbol of state and representative of all the citizens, without profiting politically, so that specific kind of corruption would vanish.

And finally, political completion would lose its edge and heat, because the top spot in the country would be nominally occupied, so that politicians could only run for the second rank in the country.

The costs of the Consututional Monarchy would not exceed current costs of the running of the presidency of Serbia, and it could be much lower, because monarch with limited authority and little professional engagement would not need a big office and numerous advisors and secretaries. As an example, costs of monarchy in England are about 100 dinars per capita annually.

On behalf of the gentlemen who have been promoted to certain advisory bodies of the Crown, and me personally I would like to express our deep gratitude to Their Royal Highnesses.

In Belgrade, on 14 February 2017

Djurdje Ninkovic

Member of the Privy Council

Deputy Minister of justice 2001