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Modern monarchs and democracy : Thailand's Bhumibol Adulyadej and Juan Carlos of Spain

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Ünaldi, Serhat

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Abstract The history of democracy is typically a history of struggle against monarchs and other such autocrats. The elevation of one person over others by virtue of blood and birth has come to be seen as anachronistic; yet some monarchies have managed to survive to this day. This paper analyses two examples of the uneasy coalition between popular sovereignty and royal leadership that is constitutional monarchy. Whereas Juan Carlos of Spain has been described as having steered Spain away from dictatorship, Bhumibol of Thailand has come under scrutiny for allegedly lacking a principled approach to democracy. I argue that structural as much as personal factors influenced the ways in which the two monarchies were legitimised – one by positively responding to the modern aspirations of the king’s subjects, giving him a “forward legitimacy,” the other by revitalising the king’s traditional charisma and opting for “backward legitimacy.”
Keywords Thailand; Spain; monarchy; democracy; democratization; domination; legitimation; political system; historical development; political power; Southeast Asia
Classification Political System, Constitution, Government
Method descriptive study
Free Keywords 1900-2010
Document language English
Publication Year 2012
Page/Pages p. 5-34
Journal Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs, 31 (2012) 2
ISSN 1868-4882
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works