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Need to Know: Parliaments, Presidents, and Monarchs

Every nation has a head of state, which serves as the chief public representative for the country. Depending on the constitution, the head of state may or may not exercise executive power.

In parliamentary systems found across the world, and especially in Europe, the prime minister, or premier, functions as the chief executive officer and answers to the parliament. Authority is vested in cabinets responsible to the parliament. The prime minister is the head of the cabinet, and therefore the chief executive of the nation.

In such systems, the prime minister also answers to a ceremonial head of state. In some nations it is a weak president and in constitutional monarchies, such as the United Kingdom or Spain, it is the hereditary monarch.

Unlike with parliamentary forms of government, the President of the United States is vested with real authority and there is no prime minister. The US President is both the head of state and chief executive. Versions of the American presidential system have been adopted in Latin America and the developing world.

And finally, France offers a third example of executive power distribution. In 1958, Charles de Gaulle created the Fifth Republic, which gave France's president potent executive powers. The president has the power to dissolve the national legislature and call national referenda. He or she also appoints the prime minister, who must have the support of a majority in France's lower house. Post-communist countries, including Russia, modeled their constitutions after France. Thus, Russian President Putin will have the opportunity to seek the next best office as Russia's Prime Minister.


Join The Conversation
janneth janneth 9 years
Oui, it's good to know this stuff.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
Ah, thank you for this post and for the additional clarification, Liberty! Now I won't get so lost when reading about French politics anymore.
LibertySugar LibertySugar 9 years
Hi everyone! I wanted to offer some more info about France. It's somewhat complicated, and could be the topic of a semester course, but the best way to think about it is that France has an executive branch headed by two officials: the President and the Prime Minister. The prime minister is the head of government. Like in other parliamentary systems, the PM answers to the head of state (here the President) and the legislature (parliament). But, in France the President has more than ceremonial powers; therefore executive powers are split up between the two. So what are some of the PM powers? He or she is ultimately responsible for the policy of the government(aka the cabinet of ministers). The PM proposes a list of ministers for the Presidents approval. As head of the cabinet, the PM controls the civil service, government agencies, and the armed forces. OK — I hope that provided some clarity. Isn't education fun!?
gigill gigill 9 years
I'm wondering the same thing as freegraceform.
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
we have a parliamentary system and a senate but we have a presidnet with all the executive powers and no prime minister.
Princesskitty22 Princesskitty22 9 years
Interesting, I didn't know about the third one. Thanks, Liberty! :)
nyaradzom2001 nyaradzom2001 9 years
Political Science 1000 hehehe I slept through 9/10 of the classes I actually attended.
freegracefrom freegracefrom 9 years
I'm still a little confused as to the difference between the president and prime minister for France/Russia. If the president isn't a ceremonial head of state and they have executive powers, precisely what duties/responsibilities would the prime minister have? Thanks for the education! :smile:
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