How does the monarchy affect democracy?
By Zan Azlee
BEING so close to Thailand (in case you didn’t know, Malaysia borders Thailand to the south), Malaysians just can’t avoid having a very close affinity with her neighbour.
Personally, I have visited the Siamese Kingdom numerous times and, as anyone who has ever been there would tell you, the Thais love their King and country to death.
The national anthem is played in public every day and it doesn’t matter where you are or what you are doing, you stand when it does, whether you’re waiting for the train or just standing on the sidewalk.
They turn to their King for everything, from spiritual guidance to being a stable anchor and mediator during extreme political turmoil. The latter being the case in the past decade.
With the passing of King Bhumibol Adulyadei, the country grieves like they have never grieved before. Tears filled the days after the announcement and the nation is in a full year of mourning.
The country will appoint Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn as the new king; however, he has requested a delay because he wants to mourn the loss of his father together with the people.
For a country that has faced such political instability (in the last decade, they have gone through multiple coups and have one former prime minister living in exile), it would be an interesting transition.
Constitutional monarchs are very interesting because it is a system that incorporates ancient and (some say archaic) system of rule with modern day democracy.
For many countries that are constitutional monarchies, the role of the royals is usually symbolic and ceremonial. But as we are all familiar with, Thailand holds their King in much higher regard.
But how has it affected their democracy? With the late King Bhumibol being so highly revered, his advice, guidance and endorsements are usually rarely debated or questioned.
He is a respected father to a people that is obedient and respectful. And because of that, this could be prone to abuse, especially by those who try to manipulate the system and stay in power.
At the same time, Malaysia, another constitutional monarchy in the region, just went through the process of appointing the country’s new king for the next five years.