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  • United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II during the Derby Festival.

    United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II during the Derby Festival. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 June 2017

As the U.K. prepares heads to the polls, there is growing debate around the role of the queen in modern British democracy.

While over 46 million people are expected to vote in the upcoming British elections on June 8, it is the opinion of just one person that could make the difference — the Queen.

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According to the U.K.'s constitutional monarchy, the Queen has the power to chose a prime minister — a situation which almost occurred in 1974, when the Labour party failed to secure an overall majority.

If either Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn or incumbent Conservative party Prime Minister Theresa May is unable to win a clear majority, the future of the nation could potentially lay in the hands of Elizabeth II who has been Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand since 1952.

Indeed, even if there is a clear winner, the Queen must approve the popular vote, by approving the new prime minister. All laws in the U.K. must be signed by the Queen before they can be enacted — this includes treaties and declarations of war.

The Queen’s power is not just limited to the British Parliament: as the head of the Commonwealth Realms, she also has the right to dismiss and appoint prime ministers in 13 countries.

This happened in 1974 when Australia’s democratically-elected Prime Minister Gough Whitlam was thrown out by the governor general, the queen’s representative in Australia.

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The Whitlam government had implemented a large number of policy changes, including the end of military conscription, the institution of universal healthcare and free university education, among others.

Meanwhile, the Queen got a 66 percent pay raise in November to fund a US$476 million renovation of Buckingham Palace, which has 775 rooms, 52 royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. Many noted that while there are social cuts in the country, taxpayers still have to bankroll the royal family.

The Queen is also above the law and cannot be prosecuted, including both legal and civil action, according to British law.

Corbyn has said he supports a British republic, but has also said abolishing the monarchy “is not on anybody's agenda, it's certainly not on my agenda."

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