At the turn of the 21st century I was teaching an upper division undergraduate Â course titled “Comparative Regime Transitions” in which I explored the four “waves” of democratisation that had occurred since the early 1970s in Southern Europe, Latin America, Eastern Europe and East Asia. I noted that I had also witnessed the rise of concurrent waves of new-form authoritarianism during that rough world time time frame in which old types of despotic leadership were replaced by bureaucratic authoritarians from the Left and Right in response to the crises of oligarchic, populist and weak democratic regimes. These varied from the military nationalists of the Arab world to the revolutionary regimes of Cuba, Iran and Nicaragua and the military junta led-regimes of the Southern Cone of South America, the Philippines, South Korea and Turkey. I also pointed out that, for a variety of reasons, authoritarianism was the more natural political fit for many societies organised along hierarchical lines drawn on gender, class, race, religious or ethnic differences.
My point in doing so was to remind students that contrary to the belief of those like Francis Fukuyama who claimed that the emergence of electoral (if not liberal) democracy as a seemingly global trend in the late 1980s and early 1990s signalled the “End of History” where the political and economic combination of democratic regimes and capitalist production triumphed over all others (particularly authoritarian capitalism and socialism), human history was dialectical rather than linear. There is no simple progression towards a (preferred) end state and the possibility of reversal is always latent in the move from one political-economic form to another. In this I was channeling my view that Hegelian dialectics, rather than dialectical materialism or any number of property and individual-centric “liberal” theories, best explained the superstructural dynamics inherent in political regime change. They are grounded in but not reducible to changes in production and the social division of labour attendant to it, which means that they have a pattern of historical development all of their own.
This belief comes to mind when I think of today’s widely lamented condition of globalised democratic decline and decay. In both the developed and developing world new and old democracies alike are crumbling from within, beset by a nasty combination of corruption, power-grabbing, institutional sclerosis, gerrymandering, electoral manipulation, economic inefficiency and income disparity, racial and ethnic conflict, migration pressures, youth alienation, crime, judicial bias, incompetence or indifference, poverty and assorted other social ills. This has prompted a return to authoritarianism under electoral guise; that is, in its newest version, the turn to despotism occurs under conditions of electoral rule and is instigated from within the institutional edifice of ostensibly democratic governments in response to what is claimed to be the crisis of civil society.
Here is context in order to explain.
In the 1980s a considerable body of academic writing was focused on the demise of authoritarian regimes and the restoration, resurrection or return of democratic forms of governance throughout the world. This followed on earlier academic work that focused on the causes of democratic breakdown. I was lucky to have been mentored by several of the leading figures in that discussion, and through them was exposed to the work of other intellects who together with my mentors formed what came to be known as the first generation of “transitologists,” i.e. people who studied the fluid dynamics of regimes in processes of decline or rise rather than the durable features of stable regimes. As it turns out, regardless of the specific ideology of the regime in question, authoritarians tend to fall for broadly the same reasons having to do with the nature of their rule over time. Likewise, democracies rise and fall due more to general institutional failures than whether they are right or left-leaning in nature.
(For those interested in the dynamics of authoritarian and democratic transition and who may think that recent writing on the subject is all that there is, I commend the companion four part volumes that started the whole transitology industry: The Breakdown of Democratic Regimes, Johns Hopkins, 1978 and Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, Johns Hopkins, 1986).
Into the mix came the person of Juan Linz. A Spanish born sociologist at Yale and one of the editors of TheÂ Breakdown of Democratic Regimes, Linz was more than professionally concerned about dictatorship and democracy. He had seen both in his homeland and worked hard to understand why democracies could fail from within rather than be overthrown from without. As it turns out, just like the reasons for a coup d’Ã©tat, there are “push” and “pull” factors in democratic decline. The pull factors are those that come from outside the government of the day, be it a disloyal opposition, military plotting, rising civil unrest, business sabotage, irredentist or separatist strife, economic downturns, etc. These should normally be handled by the government through the institutional process into order to reach mutual satisfactory, or at least second best social outcomes: not everyone gets everything that they want but most get some of what they want. When the institutional process fails to meet expectations and achieve those solutions, the external pull to replace those in power gowns stronger if not irresistible.
Linz understood this but also knew that absent an armed insurrection or military interruption, pull factors alone could not bring down a democracy. He consequently focused on the push factors that impelled democratic governments to turn towards authoritarianism as a response to crisis. His concern was on more than the individual whims of megalomaniac presidents and political cabals intent of holding on to power. Instead, it was on deficiencies in institutional design that left some types of democracy more prone to authoritarianism than others.
He outlined a number of factors in his considerable body of work but pinpointed two, one general and one specific, that made some democracies more susceptible to the “authoritarian temptation” than others: presidential systems and the use of Executive decrees. Basically, there are two types of democratic government, presidential systems and parliamentary systems. The latter are dominated by parties that form governments based on the percentage of votes received and the ability to attract coalition partners. The government is led by a Prime Minister who is the leader of the dominant or majority power of any given coalition, but parliament remains a strong check and balance on what the government can do when it comes to policy-making. In contrast, presidential systems, also known as Executive-dominant systems, are those in which the chief executive of the nation–the president–is elected separately from the legislature (parliament or Congress). Here the Executive branch has much more power and authority to enact policy free from the checks imposed by the legislature, to the point that it is the “first amongst equals” when it comes to the three branches of democratic governance.
For Linz presidential systems have a built-in bias towards ruling without the advice and consent of the legislature or judicial review. That is where the more specific design flaw comes into play. Executive decrees or orders are designed to by-pass the legislature in order to provide efficient and decisive policy-implementation in times of crisis or emergency. Normally a president would not make use of such prerogatives if the national condition was stable and peaceful and indeed in most instances that is a case. But take a president confronted with the pull factors mentioned above and/or one who wishes to perpetuate him/herself in office, impose a specific agenda against the will of the people and its elected representatives, or in others ways benefit or take advantage of executive privilege for personal, private or political gain, then the authoritarian temptation becomes authoritarian practice.
This is the phenomena that we are seeing now. It is not just that right-wing national populists are being elected into office and using demagogic language and behaviour to advance their goals. It is not just elected post-revolutionaries like Daniel Ortega and Nicolas Maduro who have turned on their people when these take to the streets in protest against incompetence, corruption and wide-spread scarcity. It is their use of executive powers that is turning their governments into authoritarian vehicles. Donald Trump is a variant on this theme, where executive orders and decrees are used by everyone from Rodrigo Dutarte to Recap Erdogan to Maurico Macri and are championed by leading political contenders such as rightwing extremist Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil (who openly supports Dutarte’s approach to crime and waxes nostalgic about the days of military rule). In all instances these political leaders have advocated for or turned to the use of executive decrees and orders to impose unpopular or anti-democratic policies.
The situation is made worse when the powers of the presidency are defined more by custom and tradition than by law. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the Trump presidency, where time-honoured practices and norms have been repeatedly trampled by the vulgarian in the Oval Office because, as it turns out, there is nothing in law that prevents him from doing so. Presidential practice in the US, as it turns out, is about as much grounded in law as is the interior decoration of the White House because most of it is informal and therefore dependent on the president’s disposition when it comes to adherence to informal norms and customs.
Be that as it may, time and time again, using the pretext of fighting crime, restoring order or handling some other type of national emergency, executives in presidential systems have resorted to decrees and orders to accomplish their ends. And now, in a spectacle that Linz perhaps fortunately did not live to see, we have parliamentary majorities giving extraordinary powers to prime ministers in order to do the same thing. Witness Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban and his xenophobic policies or Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s assaults on judicial independence, which come after their parties gained large coalition majorities that allow them to push through laws in spite of popular opposition or the strictures of decency and fair play.
The key point is that Linz’s bottom line is correct: the combination of a constitutionally strong executive and decree or order-making powers accorded to it is an authoritarian nut in a democratic shell. Short of changing to a parliamentary system with multiple party representation in government, the best immediate solution to the authoritarian temptation inherent in presidential systems is to strip presidents of decree or order-making privileges except in cases of dire national emergency (with what constitutes a dire national emergency spelled out in a constitutional or legal amendment). While this may not prevent the abuse of majorities in parliamentary systems to ram-rod legislation under “urgency,” it can weaken the temptation to go full authoritarian when the law does not explicitly prohibit doing so because it might cause a parliamentary revolt or conscience votes of no-confidence within the ruling coalition.
It is doubtful that any president will abolish the decree or order-making privileges. History has shown that even the most fair minded incumbents tend to leave Executive decree-making powers on the books “just in case.” One only need think of how Barack Obama used Executive Orders to muzzle leakers and whistleblowers to understand that the authoritarian Â temptation is powerful even in the best of cases. So the solution has to be found elsewhere, in legislative reform and judicial review that constrain or eliminate the decree-making powers of the Executive.
Even with the cases noted, parliamentary systems are the best safeguards against the authoritarian temptation, something that can be reinforced by eliminating first-past-the-post variants and requiring supermajorities (say, two thirds) to pass legislation under urgency or emergency. A number of parliamentary regimes have in place just such mechanisms but others, including New Zealand, to my knowledge do not. In addition, in parliamentary systems where custom and practice rather than law governs much of what Prime Ministers and their cabinets do (for example, when it comes to national security), the need to increase parliament’s check and balance (if not veto) power is all the more necessary. Getting rid of simple majorities both for government formation and legislation passage is a step in that direction.
When we look at the problems of contemporary democracy, it is not enough to focus on the external or pull factors that cause or facilitate democratic decline–social media manipulation, corporate influence, rank partisanship etc. All of these are necessary but not sufficient conditions for the breakdown of democracy. What is sufficient is an inherent institutional disposition towards authoritarianism, something that the combination of presidentialism and executive decree-making authority all but assures.
Word: It is time to re-read Juan Linz and craft our remedies accordingly.
It’s interesting to see what doesn’t generate any comments. A thoughtful and useful piece like this versus talking about something someone else has done wrong.
I’ve long come to my own conclusions that presidentialism is a really bad way to go about democracy, the US just happens to have an especially awful version of it too, the politicised judiciary being a standout example.
It’s ironic that the best parliaments are the ones that have monarch at the top acting as a backstop to power grabs. Since they theoretically already have all the power they can stop anyone else taking that spot. They are generally very popular as long they don’t use their power for basically anything and all seem to be keenly aware of this fact, so they don’t abuse it.
The fundamental mistake Washington made was not accepting the title of President for Life. By being elected and up for contestation the position had democratic legitimacy and led to the ever growing concentration of power into the President’s hands.
Some interesting examples: South Africa combines the position of Prime Minister and President into one person, that has not gone very well. Bicarmalism where the upper house has real power is pretty awful too, for example the US Senate can block most things with 40 votes, but really it should be the other way around, only being able to block when 60 votes are gathered, in general no upper house should be able to do anything with less than a super-majority.
Bizarre as it might sound at first if NZ ever severs ties with the monarchy I’d rather have some independent sports hero like Richie McCaw serve as president for a 20 or 25 year term than some judge, bureaucrat, or military officer I’ve never heard of serve for a 5 year term. A president needs to be apolitical and independent of the parliament, not in the service of it.
Over the years I have discovered that posts that are not about NZ do not attract anywhere as much commentary as posts that do cover NZ. That is particularly true of posts that are either (quasi) academic in tone or which do not address conflict. Since I had an academic career researching and writing about comparative labour relations, regime transition and foreign policy that paralleled my US govt service in the security field, the blog provides a means of continuing to delve into those interests regardless of commentary. In contrast, whenever Lew writes his increasingly infrequent posts, the readership skyrockets and comments flood in. I assume that is due to a combination of his sharp intellect and good writing and the natural tendency of people to focus on what is close rather than what is afar.
It is clear that the US needs some serious constitutional reform specifically addressed at the political system. But it will take something that emerges from the bankruptcy of the present system to do so. That could be a Bernie-type candidate winning along with a Democratic landslide field by grass roots mobilisation from the Left in response to the collapse of the GOP under the weight of Trump/MAGA/Tea Bagger weirdness, but even that will be years in the making.
One extant check in the US is the federal nature of the government. States weekly considerable power and can resist despotic mandates emanating from DC. That is happening to some extent already. But again, major change will only be forthcoming when there is a cleanup of the GOP and a major ideological shift within the Democratic Party.
As for rugby legends becoming titular heads of state–may the goddess forbid!
A very interesting post Pablo, and you are probably correct in suggesting that kiwipolitico posts garner less comment when they are not concerned with New Zealand politics. Yet this problem of “unbridled power” is a universal concern which we here in Aotearoa need to think deeply upon because the present colonial system cannot endure forever and we don’t want to fall into authoritarian republicanism (or for that matter celebrity monarchism) as the successor of hereditary monarchy.
One of the strengths of the Westminster system is that the government is constantly subject to the confidence of the legislature, which I accept is a moderating influence upon the executive. As our republican institutions develop I would expect the positions of both the executive and the legislature to be continuously subject to the confidence of the people in the same way that the executive is currently subject to the confidence of parliament.
A strong and explicit constitution would also guard the rights and freedoms of the people.
I do not see the point of bicameralism. It seems to be founded on the principle that if you have two parallel systems of representation there is at least a chance that one of them may be responsive to the popular will or the restraints of reason. I would have thought it better to have one institution deliberately constructed so as to give the people effective control over their representatives. I also question the merit of super-majorities, thinking it better to have a system in which the voice of minorities continues to be heard, and in which they can continue to exert reasoned and reasonable influence proportional to their numbers.
Overall I agree that Western democracy is entering a period of institutional crisis, in which lies the opportunity to create a much more robust and satisfactory model of democracy.
I think the main reason why your overseas posts don’t garner the same level of responses is because your exceptional knowledge, experiences and sophistication – in the field of US politics and their outcomes in particular – leave us ordinary Kiwis in total awe.
Nonetheless we read them and we learn a lot from them – including the thoughtful and erudite responses from your peers that invariably accompany them.
@ James Green
“Itâ€™s ironic that the best parliaments are the ones that have monarch at the top acting as a backstop to power grabs.”
I am an unabashed supporter of monarchical democratic governance such as we enjoy in the Commonwealth of Nations for precisely this reason.
I attribute the lower readership on international or foreign-themed posts as a case of people simply being more interested in things closer to home and their own lives. I had thought of writing about the abortion debate and vote in Argentina (my adopted childhood country), but even though it is acutely important a subject to my Argentine friends it would not matter much to people here. As it turns out, the Argentine Senate, “lobbied” hard by the Catholic Church and conservative groups that were so complicit in the crimes of the “dirty war,” narrowly defeated the bill to legalise abortion up to 14 weeks. So Argentine women remain with no legal option to terminate pregnancies for any reason. But that is not something that will resonate here so I dropped it.
Instead, I have lined up a post on something with domestic application. Should be out soon.
Kia ora Anne (and James)
James wrote â€œItâ€™s ironic that the best parliaments are the ones that have monarch at the top acting as a backstop to power grabs.â€
Anne wrote “I am an unabashed supporter of monarchical democratic governance such as we enjoy in the Commonwealth of Nations for precisely this reason.”
The greatest abuses of power in the Realm of New Zealand were the wars of the nineteenth century and the subsequent confiscations. Did the monarch, Queen Victoria, do anything to prevent all this which was done in her name?
There have been many other abuses in the century and a half that have followed, where successive British monarchs have failed to defend the rights and freedoms of the people of New Zealand.
Can you cite even one example where the sovereign has intervened to avert or prevent abuse of power?
Or is it simply the case that you are an “unabashed supporter” of a system which puts an un-elected foreign monarch at the head of the New Zealand state?
@Geoff: Do you favour the sovereign acting unilaterally to overrule the actions of Parliament and Cabinet?
Or is your approval of such interventions contingent on their achieving aims that you find amenable (e.g, restraining Imperialism?)
Or to put it another way, would it be fair to say that you are comfortable with an unelected ruler acting arbitrarily, without any democratic mandate or any constitutional or democratic checks on their action, as long as their unelected, unchecked, arbitrary power creates desirable policy outcomes?
Kia ora Erewhon
Two commenters have claimed that the monarch “acts as a backstop to power grabs” and I have asked them to provide some evidence to support that claim. Personally I can see no evidence and I believe that the claim is implausible, but I will wait to see what response we might get from Anne and James.
That is all.
For the record I don’t believe that ends justify means, I do not condone arbitrary rule and I don’t accept that the office of head of state should be heritable. Those are some of my points of difference from the regime.
So I guess the monarch can’t win from your point of view.
If the monarch abides by the restraints placed on their power, then they are responsible for the reprehensible things that their government does, because they didn’t stop it, and thus guilty.
If the monarch does act to stop their government doing reprehensible things, then they are acting undemocratically, and are again guilty.
I assume if Aotearoa were to replace the Queen with a President or other non-hereditary head of state you would hold them to the same standard?
The monarch is head of state but also a tool of the state. She will sign into law a bill allowing abortion on demand just as readily she would assent to the total prohibition of abortion. She will endorse the war against Iraq with no more qualms than she would have over granting extended parental leave. She is a moral eunuch politically speaking. (I do not doubt that she adheres to her own personal moral code at a domestic level).
Is that her fault? It is the monarchical system, rather than the monarch herself, that is reprehensible.
I do not expect leaders to always get it right, but I do expect them to act in good conscience, and any system of government which I support or engage in has to allow that. The Realm of New Zealand, as presently constituted, does not.
The idea that the monarch is there to protect democracy is widely and strongly promoted by the colonial regime’s apologists, but is without basis in law, reason or experience.
Why would an un-elected head of state, one of a class who inherits wealth, privilege and position in society, decide that the democratic will of the people should determine the destiny of the nation?
It would be nice to think that might be the case, but the experience of Fiji shows otherwise.
In 1987 an element within the Royal Fiji Military Forces staged a coup against the elected government. The Governor-General of Fiji, Ratu Sir Penaia Kanatabatu Ganilau, endorsed the coup, and promoted its leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, to command of the RFMF.
The Queen of Fiji, Elizabeth II, who also happens to be the Queen of New Zealand, tacitly condoned the coup by retaining Ganilau as her representative and viceroy.
The same would happen here in New Zealand if there was a military coup against an elected government. Elizabeth would not lift a finger to defend a democracy in which she has no interest. Only the people themselves have an interest in winning and defending their democratic rights, and it is mischievous to suggest that the monarch would do that for them.
“tacitly condoned the coup by retaining Ganilau as her representative and viceroy”
The Queen doesn’t have the power to remove a Governor General, in New Zealand or Fiji.
“Is that her fault? It is the monarchical system, rather than the monarch herself, that is reprehensible.”
This system isn’t limited to monarchies, though. There are plenty of non-hereditary heads of state whose duties are equally ceremonial, and who are also ‘moral eunuchs’. In Ireland, for example, the Presidents are expected to sign any bill put before them regardless of their personal political or moral beliefs. Is the Irish system equally morally reprehensible?
It seems that, unlike many anti-monarchists, you would prefer it if the Queen had more power, not less.
Erewhon wrote: “It seems that, unlike many anti-monarchists, you would prefer it if the Queen had more power, not less.”
There seems to be some confusion here over just what powers the Queen has within the colonial system. James and Anne suggested that she could block the unlawful seizure of power. You suggest that she doesn’t even have the capacity to offer moral opposition to the violent seizure of power, but is obliged to tacitly condone a coup if it is made by, or in collaboration with, the Governor-General.
I find this whole aspect of the New Zealand constitution disturbing, and I argue that the people of New Zealand would be foolish to trust Queen Elizabeth to defend their democracy. She never has done that and there is no reason to suppose that she ever would. People must defend their own rights and freedoms. No one else will do it for them, certainly not a hereditary foreign monarch. It is also true that the only instrument of government which can be employed to establish and protect the popular right is a republic. What kind of republic is up to us. If the Irish constitution is as you describe it, then I personally would not want it.
Yet it is also true to say that I would prefer the person of the Queen, that is Elizabeth Windsor, to have greater power. The power enjoyed by the ordinary citizen, the power to form and express authentic opinions and to act in accordance with the dictates of her own conscience.
Although historically your observation is true, there are enough contemporary exceptions to your rule to bring into question the claim that a specific culture is needed for democracy to flourish. Costa Rica and Uruguay have long stories of democracy, and Botswana has shown itself to be a post-colonial exemplar of that political form.
My view is that democracy is basically a political and social compact (in the vein of De Tocqueville) that requires contingent mass consent in order to be reproduced. That in turns requires an ideological, not cultural commitment to democratic principles in our collective lives. Easier said than done even in the most ‘mature” or advanced democracies.
I will leave aside your flawed understanding of Costa Rican and Uruguayan political history and your repeated reference to the purported superiority of certain types of Europeans. I assume that you will dismiss the democracies of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea along lines similar to your dismissal of Botswana as a legitimate case (especially ethnic homogeneity being the explanation for their difference from everyone else in the region around them). I will also refrain from noting the democratic character of Greece, Spain and Portugal, all countries that just 50 years ago were considered, for cultural reasons, to be incapable of nurturing democratic forms of rule. You are free to hold your views on these countries and we will have to agree to differ on them.
What I will instead refer to is my belief that rather than culture (or ethnicity/race/religion), democracy is the product of an ideological compact based on equality, toleration, compromise and the pursuit of mutual second best political and social outcomes (where no one gets everything that they want but everyone gets some of what they want). This compact is institutionally codified throughout society and not just in politics. That is because at a political level democracy is just a procedure or instrument by which incumbents of political decision-making positions are selected via free and fair universal elections. At a societal level the notions I mentioned above provide the basis for the social contract underpinning individual and collective behaviour, something that is enshrined in universally applicable law but also reproduced through custom, usage and informal norms of comportment (what one can call “substantive” democracy as opposed to “procedural” democracy). These mores take a long time to ingrain in a society and are susceptible to reversal, as the crisis of Anglo-Saxon democracies currently demonstrates.
My point is that democracy is a learned virtue and not a cultural disposition. Its survival and reproduction over time is based on the contingent mass consent of subjects to the political decisions of elected representatives set against the subject’s material expectations over time, all framed by the institutional and ideological parameters operative at any given moment. That is, mass contingent consent is given or withdrawn in both the political and economic spheres, and the way in which that occurs is mediated by the societal norms and institutional frameworks governing conflict resolution. In any event you can get a better idea of my thoughts on this subject by looking up a book titled “State, Labor, Capital: Democratizing Class Relations in the Southern Cone.” Pittsburgh University Press, 1995.
In sum, democracy is more than just a type of political rule, and is about ideology and institutions, not culture, ethnicity, race or religion.
I didn’t think anyone would still be monitoring this post for comments, except for Pablo of course.
To answer: Parliamentarianism versus presidentialism is the biggest determiner in stability of various democracies, but looking closer at parliamentary countries those that have monarchs are more stable than those that don’t.
Maybe this is just correlation and the causation doesn’t work this way, but I’m not going to get into that now.
You bring up a good example in Fiji. In the end the Queen was ignored and written out of the picture in a new constitution. This was possible because the Queen had little standing in Fiji, for a start she didn’t even live there.
NZ, Canada, Jamaica, etc are really only quasi-monarchies because of the intermediary position of the Governors-general. That is why I put forward a proposal of how the benefits of a monarchy could be utilised by NZ without the downsides of a foreign head of state or a hereditary one.
Monarchs can be very easily overthrown, but as long as they are not no-one else can monopolise power for long.
NZ is the most lax country in the world when it comes to constitutional rigour, the Governor-general is effectively just appointed by the PMâ€”this is not ideal.
Ha Ha, James.
I am always vigilant and in this case could not let the flawed historical revisionism and AngloSaxon-centric “culturalist” explanation of the last commentator go unchallenged. The point about the preferability of parliamentary systems is one I agree with and in fact motivated the post. Since I see (constitutional) monarchs and their families as useless parasites, I pay very little attention to them. The exception being King Juan Carlos of Spain during the attempted coup known as the “Tejerazo” in 1981, when he refused to support the Francoist coup-makers and backed the elected government they were trying to overthrow. His decision was decisive in the maintenance of the then fragile post-Franco constitutional regime.
I was thinking of bringing up a comparison of two very similar countries: Spain and Italy. One has a monarch and the other doesn’t. I’m not really sure I know enough about each country, but it seems to me that Spain has been more stable than Italy in its governments over the past 40 years.
I think monarchs do provide a value-add, but I agree that that tapirs off very quickly when it comes to their families. To me the hereditary nature of monarchs is their biggest problem.
Kia ora James.
“In the end the Queen was ignored and written out of the picture in a new constitution.”
She had served her purpose by allowing the destruction of the always fragile Fijian democracy. After that the regime had no further need for her, and the betrayed democratic elements had lost faith in her. So Fiji became a republic, moved away from the Anglo-American-Australian sphere of influence and more towards China and India. Whether this was a good or bad thing is not for me to judge, but if the Queen had taken steps to save Fijian democracy it might not have happened.
“This was possible because the Queen had little standing in Fiji”
Actually she seemed to enjoy quite a high standing in Fiji while I was living there.
“for a start she didnâ€™t even live there.”
She doesn’t live here either.
“NZ, Canada, Jamaica, etc are really only quasi-monarchies because of the intermediary position of the Governors-general.”
They are colonial monarchies rather than quasi-monarchies. The office of Governor-General was a necessary colonial adaptation which distinguishes the colonial monarchies from the home nations of the United Kingdom.
I should have realised earlier that Phil101 was an alt-Right troll with limited comprehension skills, but his last few comments confirmed the obvious. The usual racist themes and hyperbolic memes, the blind spouting of reactionary tropes, the ignorance of history and the inability to understand (or perhaps even read) what was written in rebuttal to his spew and the descent into personal insults made it pretty clear the he is not interested in having a discussion. The use of multiple IP addresses also suggests, if not the use of home and work computers to run his mouth, yet another jerk using masking services to hide his real on-line location, so there is no point in keeping him around. So away he goes!