The Pope of the Catholic Church is an absolute monarch - Head of State of the Vatican City State. He is granted this title through an election by the College of Cardinals. See: The Pope...is currently the only absolute monarch in Europe..

What other historical examples do we have of such a system of government being successfully implemented: An absolute monarchy where the monarch does not inherit their title, but acquires it by virtue of election, when the previous monarch dies, or abdicates; or perhaps even a system where a true monarch is elected for a term of office?

Clarification: I agree with the comments: The term 'monarch' here is unclear.

Monarch is from the Greek: < Greek monárchēs sole ruler; see mon-, -arch -

So an absolute dictator could also be called a monarch in that sense. On the other hand, modern usage seems to reserve the term for someone who inherits their position - "Royalty", although they may have little temporal power.

In this context I will distinguish between a "monarch" and a "dictator" or "despot": Monarchy is an agreed upon institution of a sovereign state, established by long standing tradition or constitutional process, as per Edmund Burke's principles. This reflects Mark C. Wallace's comments "a monarch has legitimacy and accountability" - not simply an individual who seizes power for the moment.

As for "absolute", let's go with the vernacular of "Their word is Law". Or to take it to extremes, as has been attributed to Louis XIV: "The State? I am the State!".

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    I think this needs a re-focus. Currently, the question is asking for a list of things (frowned upon as there is no clear "best" answer) and a moderate amount of research can give you at least three example: The Holy Roman Empire, The Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita Obojga Narodów) and the Republic of Venice (Repùblica de Venesia). – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Aug 2 '13 at 9:46
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    Malaysia also has a curious system: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yang_di-Pertuan_Agong "Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with an elected monarch as head of state.: – Felix Goldberg Aug 2 '13 at 9:49
  • Actually to describe the Vatican as an absolute monarchy is a bit misleading since the elction is done by the College of Cardinals from the ranks of the College. To me it seems more like an very special kind of oligarchy. Or not - since the Pope is the one who single-handedly appoints Cardinals. On the other hand, most cardinals and Popes are rather old so the role of natural factors in the composition of the College is not lesser than that of deliberate packing or of co-optation. – Felix Goldberg Aug 2 '13 at 9:50
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    Anyway, another example is the early Venetian republic, where the Doge was elected and practically an absolute leader. (Later his powers were checked and circumscribed and even later the Doge became little more than a figurehead, but by then the republic was in full decline mode anyway). – Felix Goldberg Aug 2 '13 at 9:54
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    Just as a possible extra lead for now: John III Sobieski was "elected monarch" of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1673. Perhaps not "absolute", though ... – Drux Aug 2 '13 at 18:24

This question is difficult because it is not clear what monarchy is absolute and whether such elected office should be called monarchy rather than something else (i.e., dictatorship).

One of the basic features of monarchy is inheritance of the office. As such, all elected monarchs are quite borderline cases.

That said, I can name the following cases upon whom you yourself could decide whether they suit your question.

  • In Ancient world it was common for one of the kings or princes of a military alliance to be elected as supreme military leader. Examples include Agamemnon who led the Achaeans in the Trojan war and Alexander the Great who was elected archistrategos on the Second Corinth Congress.

  • In Ancient world it was common that the leaders who traditionally translated as "kings" into modern English were elected. Examples include archons in Athens, archagestes in Sparta, rexes in Rome. Some of them initially were republican offices and later became life-long.

  • In Ancient Rome and Byzantine Empire the emperors were often elected this or that way.

  • In Holy Roman Empire the emperor was elected by prince-electors.

  • In medieval Poland the king was elected but it is doubtful whether this monarchy could be called "absolute" or even monarchy at all rather than a republic.

  • Sometimes election of a king happened in traditional monarchies when a dynasty ended. This happened in Russia with the election of Mikhail Romanov in 1613 by the boyar Duma.

  • The president of United Arab Emirates is the emir of one of the emirates and elected by other emirs.

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    I agree that the dividing lines are not crystal clear, but I'm going to side with wikipedia and Fukayama that a monarch has legitimacy and accountability, while a dictator has only power. I support your approach of analyzing historical use cases (it stretches the boundaries of SE, but I think appropriately). Finally, I agree with your implicit argument that election of the monarch/autaurch is a precursor to hereditary autarchy - but I cannot support it with evidence. – Mark C. Wallace Aug 2 '13 at 11:25
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    One can hold a monarch accountable without deposing him/her. One example is control of the purse strings (see Britain, 1688-1820). Another is to limit military strength (see France, although I'm not as familiar with it). An absolute monarch has legitimacy, but limited accountability. That said, these terms describe reality which is always more complex and splendid than the dictionary definitions of words. – Mark C. Wallace Aug 2 '13 at 11:36
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    @Anixx - see edit. And Monarchs are indeed accountable - a Monarchy is established by the consensus of the citizenry of a state. The People crown their King - that is the essence of a coronation. And that's the difference between a monarch and a dictator - a dictator seizes power; a monarch is granted power. Edmund Burke, among others, discusses this in some detail. – user2590 Aug 2 '13 at 18:00
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    @Vector many monarchs claim that it is god rather than people who give them power. The coronation is often a religious ceremony. – Anixx Aug 2 '13 at 22:41
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    @Vector every head of state can be desposed with a revolution. But even after a revolution, monarchs often claim the throne (unlike other desposed leaders). – Anixx Aug 2 '13 at 22:42