måndag 5 juli 2010

What future for the Swedish monarchy?

The royal wedding on the 19 June attracted a lot of enthusiasm but there have also been plenty of voices raised in favour of getting rid of the monarchy.

The Swedish monarch has much less of a functional role than the British one, where the Queen is responsible for putting her signature to every piece of legislation and could, in theory, refuse. The allegiance of the military forces is also to the monarch and not to parliament, and again, in theory, the army could act against Parliament.

The last time a European monarch exercised real power was in Spain, a few years after the retirement of Franco, and it is worth remembering that he intervened to prevent a right-wing coup.

As a general rule, it is not a good idea to get rid of an institution that functions reasonably well, not least because the original reason for having the institution may have been forgotten and might be rediscovered only when the institution is abolished, when it is too late.

The British political system is not functioning well at the moment but there is no evidence that the monarchy is the cause, or that abolition would make matters any better. The Swedish case is slightly different. The country has an exceptionally high proportion of immigrants. Although the political system is not dysfunctional as Britain's has become this leads, potentially, to various tensions, one consequence of which is a significant far-right political movement.

I suspect that in this situation, the monarchy acts as a useful safety valve for nationalist sentiments which might otherwise be drawn in far less benign directions. As things are, the monarchy probably acts as a useful lighting conductor as well as a providing a focus for national identity. That is valuable in a country which is as diverse as Sweden.

This is not a boat to be rocked.

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