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One of the planets in my book series is Aurea, a very populous planet with about end-of-the-middle-ages technology (cannons galore but still haven't really figured out arquebuses or muskets). Aurea is a very culturally diverse world, although most of the provinces have cultures most similar to Roman, Byzantine, and Ancient Greek cultures with a hint of al-Andalus and the Wild West. The three exceptions are Tangolia (various Hunnic, Turkic, Mongol, Manchu, Navajo, and Comanche-inspired steppe tribes in the vast deserts, steppes, and mountains; while the coastal urban population is more Korean and Chinese-inspired), Tiorangi (A fusion of Maori and Aboriginal Australian-inspired tribes and the wider Greco-Roman culture of Aurea), and Zebusylvania (Imagine Zulus and Zandes that have absorbed a great deal of Greco-Roman culture). Of the three, Tiorangi is the most assimilated into mainstream Aurean culture, Zebusylvania is somewhere in the middle, and Tangolians barely consider themselves Aureans at all. All three are descended from successive waves of migration into the parts of Aurea that the mainstream Aureans (called Guants) left empty, and all three have histories of both trading and violent wars with the Guants until they were eventually subjugated.

In order to hold onto such a diverse population, Aurea's government long ago split it into 8 provinces: the three mentioned above, Argentolia (home to the capital of Astras and over a third of the population), Centronesia, Terra Centralis, Thoronodos, and Occidens. Each province (except Argentolia) is allowed to have its own system of government, as long as they have a single leader, abide by all federal laws, allow the Aurean Government to collect taxes, provide troops for and lead the portions of the military under their command, and abide by all of Aurea's foreign policy decisions. Most of these provincial leaders cooperate with the Aurean Government without issue, but the Zebusylvanian Kings and especially Tangolian Khans have betrayed the Empire on multiple occasions and directed their armies at the Aurean Government, although none of these uprisings have been successful.

As I said above, I've figured out how the "federation" aspect of the Aurean Government works, but I'm having issues for the rest. I want the planet to have a strong Emperor figure who acts as the superior to all of the seven provincial leaders, is hereditary, and has either absolute power or close to it, but I also want there to be some sort of American or Roman Republic-style elections planetwide that actually matter (although the various aristocrats have a disproportionate but not total say in the process), and I don't really know how to make these both true at the same time. How do I make an overarching government at least mostly Republican with planetwide elections whose stakes matter, but also have an emperor figure with close to absolute power as well as the decentralized province system outlined above?

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    $\begingroup$ You need to better define the "stakes matter" requirement of elections. Senate can hold very broad powers, even if Emperor can overrule it at will. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Mar 23, 2021 at 16:53
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    $\begingroup$ What you are writing about sounds a heck of a lot like the Holy Roman Empire. I am not super knowledgeable about its inner workings, but I would recommend taking a look at this video that describes it succinctly to see if it's worth looking deeper into $\endgroup$
    – SirTain
    Mar 23, 2021 at 17:29
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    $\begingroup$ Federative republics are a thing so you have half of your problem solved just there. $\endgroup$ Mar 23, 2021 at 17:32
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think this is opinion-based, as there either is or is not a way to combine the three governmental structures. And if it can be done, there's likely an example of it in our own history. $\endgroup$
    – rek
    Mar 23, 2021 at 18:42
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    $\begingroup$ And why isn't the USA a good example? It's a federal structure, it's ruled by an almost absolute emperor, and each state elects a governor every four years. True, the American emperor is elected and does not inherit his job from his father, but that's a detail. (In real history, the position of Roman emperor was also not hereditary for the first two centuries of the empire; the position of the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was not hereditary throughout most of its millennium long history.) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Mar 23, 2021 at 19:56

5 Answers 5

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A balance of power.

There is the hereditary Emperor, who also happens to be the head of an extremely wealthy noble family. Your Federation works by granting internal autonomy within the customary (or legal?) bounds, while requiring allegiance (call it feudal fealty?) on all issues covered by Imperial law. Basically the Kings and Khans were fitted into feudal hierarchy with rights and titles similar to other princes and dukes.

By ancient laws and oaths -- and these people take their oaths seriously, or at least pretend they do -- the Emperor is the commander-in-chief and completely in charge of foreign policy. But he cannot fund navy, or the artillery of the army, from his discretionary funds. And soldiers who would follow the order to invade a foreign country will not follow the order to collect taxes by force, since that would be dishonorable.

Then there is the Republican element, a Senate which has the power of the purse. This could be absolute, or there are certain monies which are traditionally (and legally?) under the exclusive control of the Emperor. Balance it so that the Senate does matter, in practice, even if the Emperor could draw upon family lands and reserved incomes.

This can be arbitrarily complex. Say the Emperor is due 1/10th of all grain (or the equivalent in coin) in some provinces, gets a monopoly on salt in another, and the right to call all freemen of another province for 60 days of duty per year (unless they hire a substitute). That's a power the Senate cannot take away. But the Senate has the right to tax the wool merchants in one province, the artisans in another, etc.

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Have a look at Australia to see if it can be adapted.

There are many examples of this type of governmental structure in place today. Look no further than a popular example: the United Kingdom, or even for that matter, Australia.

There we have a 'Constitutional Monarchy', combined with a democracy, combined with a 'coalition of states'. In Australia, the Queen is the constitutional monarch, the Federal government the coalition of states (with a Senate of equal numbers from each State), and all is wrapped up into a democratic system of government with a Prime Minister.

A 'Constitutional' monarchy is simply like a traditional one, but who's authority is limited or described by a written Constitution. This same Constitution can be amended or enforced by the main government, however can give powers to the Monarch for anything necessary (normally to do with processes of the government, and symbolic power).

In Australia, there are actually 4 'tiers' of government:

  1. Head of State (the Queen) who is a ceremonial and symbolic monarch, but has been allocated power to dissolve government or select representatives - a role under intense scrutiny if used.
  2. Federal Government - democratically elected, but with a Senate that has equal representation of each State. Normally deals with Defense, budgets, and country-wide matters.
  3. State Government - democratically elected, but instead deals with Health, Transport and Infrastructure
  4. Local Government (your provinces) - democratically elected, and deals with Planning, Local Events and even Rubbish.

In your case, the Constitution can stipulate more control to give your Monarch authority, say over large strategic issues, but allocate power to a Federal Government (for example, a Prime Minister and his cabinet) for funding, day-to-day issues and societal issues.

It is a logical system, as your Monarch does not want to deal with Rubbish collection arrangements for your provinces, nor State government want to concern itself with the politics of international diplomacy which (hopefully) your Monarch is most suited.

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  • $\begingroup$ Not really a good model, given the parameters in the question, specifically the requirement for the Imperial Power to be absolute or nearly so - HRM has very little actual power in any sphere. $\endgroup$ Mar 23, 2021 at 19:43
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Martial law.

The day to day governance of an Empire can be done fairly and justly by Republican style government. This gives autonomy to regions, limits corruption and favoritism etc. There is less risk of capriciousness or unfairness. It is also slow and inefficient but that might be tolerable for ordinary affairs.

Sometimes though efficiency is needed and speed is of the essence. A dictator is much more efficient than a council. Your dictator concerns him or herself with ceremonial matters etc most of the time. He or she might have a seat on the senate to stay involved. But if a crisis arises, the Senate can opt to hand over control temporarily to the dictator. Usually (but not necessarily) these will be military crises and the dictator will govern until the crisis has resolved.

There is a risk that in a situation like this, the dictator might not want to give up power. I struggled with all the complicated Star Wars stuff but there might have been something like this with the rise of the Emperor. Your hereditary dictator is at no risk of losing power even if governance is done by the senate day to day; the dictator is the dictator. As far as someone usurping power or killing the dictator that would be difficult - the Senate is watching and is interested in maintaining order.

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I find it very hard to believe that a government as large as the government of the entire planet Aurea in the story would have only eight "provinces" or that there wouldn't be important subdivisons beneath the eight major "provinces".

Here is a link to a Wikipedia article about administrative subdivisions of countries:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_administrative_divisions_by_country[1]

You will note that countries have different numbers of levels of administrative divisons. Often larger countries have more levels of administrative divisions than smaller ones, but that is not always the case.

Such administrative divisions vary greatly in their powers and responsibilities and in whether their governments are elected by the people or appointed by higher levels of government.

Suppose that Earth was united by negotiation and/or by conquest. It is possible that all national governmens would be abolished, or some of them would be, or that all national governments would be retained but lose their independence and sovereignty and no longer have the power to make war.

In the prsent time the various nationas have between 0 and 4 (possibly more) levels of administrative divisions. So if all nations become administrative divisions of a world government, and that world government doesn't change the administrative divisions, different places will have between 1 and 5 (possibly more) levels of adminstrative divisions.

And possibly the world government would introduce a level of government between the national governments and the world government - maybe continental governments. That would make between 2 and 6 (possibly more) levels of administrative divisions below the world government.

I note that it is possible for a monarchy to have administrative divisions which are governend by officials appointed by the monarch, and have administrative divisions which are monarchies themselves, with hereditry rulers, and also to have administrative divisions which are republics, with elective rulers. In the middle ages many cities in various kingdoms in Europe had city charters granting them the right to self rule with elected councils and elected magistrates.

Most of the territory of the Roman Empire was ruled by the hundreds of city states in it, with their elected councils and elected magistrates.

And a republic can have administrative divisions which are ruled by officials appointed by the central government of the republic, and also have administrative divisions which are republics ruled by elected asemblies, councils, and magistrates, and also have administrative divisions which are monarchies ruled by hereditary rulers or with hereditary heads of state.

At the present time there are more kings on Earth who are the heads of government in constituant monarchies which are part of larger countries, which are usually republics, than there are kings who are heads of state of independent nations.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_constituent_monarchs[2]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_current_monarchs_of_sovereign_states[3]

So possibly the Aurean government would rule a central area, either a republic or an monarchy, which was very large and powerful, and would have subordinate states farther w away, haveing les and less power over those subordinate states the farther away they were.

Some of those states might be feudal, with thousands of lords ruling lordships who were vassals of counts ruling counties who were vassals of dukes ruling duchies who were vassals of Kings ruling kingdoms who were vassals of kings of kings ruling kingdoms of kingdoms who were vassals of kings of kings of kings ruling kingdoms of kingdoms of kingdoms, up to rulers who were direct vassals of the emperor.

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Federal Republics do exist. And so does the democrasies with a monarch. Take a look at the Commonwealth countries like Canada, Australia. They are known "Federal parliamentary constitutional monarchies" and their head of state is the queen Elisabeth II. They elect their own prime ministers and federal governors. The queen is more of a figure head now, but you can easily change that in your story.

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