Prime Minister, Opposition Leader Announce Massive Royal Overhaul
NUVRENON— The Silver Court, Tavaris’ oldest institution and one famed for hesitance to change, is to see significant changes to how its budgeting and other administrative functions work under a plan announced on Wednesday by two unlikely partners: Prime Minister Žarís Nevran Alandar and her staunchest political opponent, Leader of the Opposition Kolai Šandra Vencrandíl. Most notably, for the first time since the late 19th century, the Tavari monarch will again have the legal authority to spend certain monies without needing to seek approval of the Ministry of the Treasury. Other changes include allowing the monarch personal veto power over certain appointments to Silver Court offices made by the Prime Minister—currently the monarch may only be consulted for the position of Grand Chamberlain of the Silver Court, who is the chief executive of the royal household—and allowing the monarch to “retain and control” their own legal identification documents such as their passport, and allowing the monarch to be issued a national ID card or even a driver’s license, should the Emperor seek it.
“Over the course of the past six months or so, it has become very clear that the needs of the monarchy have changed since 1882,” said Prime Minister Žarís Nevran Alandar in a press conference announcing the legislation, referencing the year of the most recent major overhaul to the Silver Court’s procedures. For essentially all of Tavari history until that year, the Tavari monarchs directly received all income generated by all state-owned land and waters, and also owned and controlled a vast portfolio of private investments, private real estate, and other assets that made them the wealthiest individuals in the country. The monarch would traditionally use this money to fund the operation of the Silver Court and then provide what was left over to the civil government. After the 1793 Instruments of Governance were ratified, that tradition became a legal obligation, but the monarch still directly received and controlled these funds.
But then came the reign of Queen Adra III, whose 30 years on the Silver Throne (1864-1894) proved to be an era of great controversy for the Tavari monarchy. Adra III was the last Tavari monarch to serve as nominal Commander-in-Chief of the Royal Tavari Armed Forces, and while the law at the time stated the monarch’s role was to be only symbolic, Adra III secretly and illicitly influenced strategic military decisions that ended up significantly hampering the Tavari war effort against Bana, Nagato, Aivintis, and others in southern Gondwana during the Gondwana Straits War of 1875 to 1882.
Several admirals and generals received bribes from the Queen—bribes that could not technically be called illegal because of the monarch’s legally unassailable position as pinnacle of the Tavari justice system—in exchange for taking actions the Queen considered to be strategically wise. However, later in the war as the economy began to struggle, Adra III switched tactics and began extorting money from the same military officials to restore her own coffers, diverting cash and even military supplies (which she had secretly sold to foreign powers) meant for the war effort. As a result, the already poor Tavari progress on land in southeastern Gondwana faltered even more, and thousands of Tavari soldiers died.
A group of whistleblowers in the military, including famous admiral Tevri Šonai Õvris, a direct ancestor of former Prime Minister Shano Tuvria, revealed the Queen’s actions shortly before the end of the war in 1882, causing a political firestorm that almost ended the Tavari monarchy entirely. While the Queen could not be taken to court for her actions, she and her descendants suffered significant political consequences when the government passed legislation entirely erasing the monarch from the military chain of command, redirecting every našdat of royal income to the Treasury, and even seizing the monarch’s entire private, non-state portfolio of wealth to repay the Armed Forces for the amount Queen Adra had extorted from her generals and admirals.
While Adra III was allowed to continue on the throne, she called the changes “even more humiliating than abdication or republicanism” because it rendered her “entirely subservient to the state, a beggar and invalid locked in a gilded prison.” She was said to be especially despondent over the loss of military power. While she never said so publicly, Adra III was known by close confidantes to see herself in the image of Queen Melora the Brave, who personally commanded troops and led strategic decision-making in the Third War with Bana, and believed that commanding troops was the monarch’s “truest duty,” according to her son, King Otan III.
The Prime Minister’s proposal does not restore the Tavari monarchy to the military chain of command, but it does significantly overhaul how its budget will work. As under the 1882 amendments, the Silver Court will continue to technically own all public land and water in the country, but will have no independent legal authority regarding it. However, unlike the 1882 amendments, the monarch will once again directly receive all funds generated from these lands—a figure that has since the turn of the 21st century numbered in the tens of billions of našdat per year—but all income over a numerical cap shall be mandated to be sent to the Treasury. That cap is to be set at 48,000,000 našdati per year, adjusted for inflation yearly, and that cap can be changed by the Diet once every ten years.
The money kept by the Silver Court is referred to as the Silver Court Reserve Fund. The monarch may choose, if they wish, to keep less than 48 million našdat from a year’s state income in the fund and pass on the difference to the state, but the law actually forbids the monarch from taking less than half of what is allowed to them under the law, a legal measure designed to prevent the monarch from being “unfairly influenced or coerced to give up their legally permitted funds.”
“With this reform, we expect that annual budget line items for regular household operations of the Silver Court will become a thing of the past in two years. The monarchy will not depend on the whims of the government of the day in order to perform the duties with which it is constitutionally mandated,” said the Prime Minister. The figure of 48 million, she said, is derived from the average annual Silver Court line item over the past 12 years. She also noted that, with a more regular income, the Silver Court will be able to make better and longer financial plans and more sound investments and that, in 10 years when the next review of royal income is mandated to occur, “it’s very likely we will see a decrease, not an increase, because for the first time this century, the Silver Court will have been able to make its own private income to fund itself.” At this decadal review, the Reserve Fund cap may be decreased but only up to 25%. There is no statutory limit on rate of increase.
Under current law, even monies that have already been legally allocated to the Silver Court cannot be spent without approval of the Treasury, as an oversight measure in direct response to Adra III’s financial misdeeds. The new proposal will partially rescind this requirement, allowing the monarch to spend up to one half of the annual balance of the Silver Court Reserve Fund per year without Treasury sign-off. However, with this change—at the insistence of the opposition Socialist Green Party for Democracy (SGPD)—comes a broad swath of vastly heightened account auditing and oversight procedures that will require, among other things, that the Silver Court make its books completely open to the public on an annual disclosure schedule and submit to third-party independent audits every six years. It also remains the case that any single expenditure of 3,000 našdati or greater must receive sign-off from the Treasury, which is a legal requirement placed on every government office and official. Once a monarch has spent more than half of what was in the Reserve Fund as of the beginning of that fiscal year, the monarch will again need to seek Treasury permission for every single spending request, no matter how small.
Outside of fiscal issues, the law also requires the Cabinet to consult with the monarch on who to appoint to any supervisory or managerial office or employee within the Silver Court, essentially giving the monarch a veto over government hires in their own household. Some, but not all, Prime Ministers have offered this right to the monarch as a courtesy—possible because the Silver Court is exempt from civil service hiring rules—but this law will make it a legal requirement.
The law also allows the monarch to “retain and control” their own legal documents—currently, Emperor Otan IV is not permitted to keep his passport in his possession and can only leave the country with a vote of approval from the Council of State. Under the new law, the monarch will be able to keep their passport and use it for identification purposes. They will also be able to travel to countries within the Tavari Union without a vote of the Council of State, as well as to “any country or political dependency thereof of which the monarch’s spouse, engaged partner, parent, sibling, or child is a citizen or lawful permanent resident.” This section of the law is written with the Emperor’s fiance, Duke Hendrik of Koersland, in mind, giving the Emperor the right to visit his future husband’s country of birth without administrative headache.
“What we have come to realize during the preparation for the Emperor’s wedding, as well as the Tavari Union creation process, is that the person of the monarch actually has dealt with far, far more restrictions in liberty than the average citizen, not less,” said SGPD leader Kolai Šandra Vencrandíl. “[Emperor Otan] is currently legally forbidden from making any money whatsoever, spending any money whatsoever, from owning any ID at all. He can’t so much as get a coffee from the KokoVoi. We would never tolerate this if it were any other person. Even prisoners are allowed to make and spend their own money. It’s just not fair, from a sapient rights perspective, some of these restrictions. It’s true that my party wants Tavaris to become a republic, but it’s also true that we want everyone in this country to have their basic civil rights. All people, and yes, that does also include Mr. Otan Nuvo Šolosar.”
With the support of both Írinavi Voi! and the opposition, the bill is almost certain to pass with an overwhelming majority, as the two parties combined control 997 out of the 1,152 seats in the Diet. However, one party that will not be supporting the Prime Minister is one of her confidence-and-supply partners, the fiscally conservative Republican Alternative (REP), who oppose the monarchy. “We were quite surprised, and quite disappointed, to see the Prime Minister suddenly spring this bill on us out of nowhere,” said REP Deputy Party Leader Ademar Olóntra Kendocaš. “We are highly, highly opposed to, in particular, the portions of the bill that allow the monarch to spend millions and millions in taxpayer našdati each year completely freely, with no Treasury sign-off. We believe this is a terrible fiscal policy and we would oppose it for any government department, not even just the Silver Court.” Mr. Olóntra Kendocaš noted, however, that there were some aspects of the bill, such as easing the monarch’s travel restrictions and allowing him national ID, that were unobjectionable, noting “The Emperor can drive an aircraft carrier, I don’t see why he can’t drive a car.”
With only 6 seats, REP cannot change the outcome of the bill, but the Prime Minister does depend on their votes for other issues where she does not have the support of the Official Opposition, which may cause trouble for her down the line. She has already had to agree to remove the face of the monarch from all Tavari banknotes to secure REP support, a measure that is being held up in the courts as it is yet undetermined if Tavaris is allowed to make this change to the currency now used by the entire Tavari Union.
“The Prime Minister should expect heightened scrutiny from us from now on. We are small, but mighty, and we will use our leverage, for instance, in the annual budget process, and we will also be insistent on a fiscally conservative budget for the upcoming royal wedding,” said Mr. Olóntra Kendocaš. The wedding of Emperor Otan and Duke Hendrik of Koersland, monies earmarked for which having been redirected for emergency public safety expenditure, must have its funding reallocated by the Diet, a matter currently being discussed. “Expect news on that very soon,” the Prime Minister said.