Head of government
The head of government is either the highest or second highest official in the executive branch of a sovereign state, a federated state, or a self-governing colony, autonomous region, or other government who often presides over a cabinet, a group of ministers or secretaries who lead executive departments. "Head of government" is often differentiated from "head of state", as they may be separate positions, individuals, or roles depending on the country.
The authority of a head of government, such as a president, chancellor, or prime minister and the relationship between that position and other state institutions, such as the relation between the head of state and of the legislature, varies greatly among sovereign states, depending largely on the particular system of the government that has been chosen, won, or evolved over time.
In most parliamentary systems, including constitutional monarchies, the head of government is the de facto political leader of the government, and is answerable to at least one chamber of the legislature. Although there is often a formal reporting relationship to a head of state, the latter usually acts as a figurehead who may take the role of chief executive on limited occasions, either when receiving constitutional advice from the head of government or under specific provisions in a constitution.
In presidential republics or in absolute monarchies, the head of state is also usually the head of government. The relationship between that leader and the government, however, can vary greatly, ranging from separation of powers to autocracy, according to the constitution of the particular state.
In semi-presidential systems, the head of government may answer to both the head of state and the legislature, with the specifics provided by each country's constitution. A modern example is the present French government, which originated as the French Fifth Republic in 1958. In France, the president, the head of state, appoints the prime minister, who is the head of government. However, the president must choose someone who can act effectively as an executive, but who also enjoys the support of the France's legislature, the National Assembly, to be able to pass legislation. In some cases, the head of state may represent one political party but the majority in the National Assembly is of a different party. Given that the majority party has greater control over state funding and primary legislation, the president is in effect forced to choose a prime minister from the opposition party to ensure an effective, functioning legislature. In this case, known as cohabitation, the prime minister, along with the cabinet, controls domestic policy, with the president's influence largely restricted to foreign affairs.
In directorial systems, the executive responsibilities of the head of government are spread among a group of people. A prominent example is the Swiss Federal Council, where each member of the council heads a department and also votes on proposals relating to all departments.
Titles of respective heads of governmentA common title for many heads of government is prime minister. This is used as a formal title in many states, but also informally a generic term to describe whichever office is considered the principal minister under an otherwise styled head of state, as minister — Latin for servants or subordinates — is a common title for members of a government. Formally the head of state can also be the head of government as well but otherwise has formal precedence over the Head of Government and other ministers, whether he is their actual political superior or rather theoretical or ceremonial in character. Various constitutions use different titles, and even the same title can have various multiple meanings, depending on the constitutional order and political system of the state in question.
As political chiefIn addition to prime minister, titles used for the democratic model, where there is an elected legislative body checking the Head of government, include the following. Some of these titles relate to governments below the national level.
Alternate English terms and renderings
- Chief Minister
- Chief Executive
- First Minister
- President of the Council of Ministers
- President of the Council of State
- President of the Executive Council
- President of the Government
- Prime minister
- State Counsellor
- State President
Equivalent titles in other languages
- Albanian: Kryeministër
- Bengali: For the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Pradan Mantri ; Sarkar Pradhan ; Sangsad Neta
- * Leader of the Basque Country : Eusko Jaurlaritzako lehendakaria
- * Leader of Navarre : Nafarroako Gobernuko lehendakaria
- * president, generically: Lehendakari
- Bulgarian: Министър-председател
- * For Andorra: Cap de Govern del Principat d'Andorra
- * For the Balearic Islands : President/-a del Govern Balear
- * For Catalonia : President/-a de la Generalitat de Catalunya
- * For Valencia : President/-a de la Generalitat Valenciana
- * The terms 'head of government' and 'prime minister', generically: cap de govern and primer ministre or primera ministra, respectively
- * For the Premier of the People's Republic of China: 总理
- Czech: Předseda vlády
- Danish: Statsminister
- * For the head of government of the Netherlands: Minister-President, Eerste Minister or Premier
- * For the head of government of Belgium, and as the term 'prime minister' generically: Eerste Minister or Premier
- Estonian: Peaminister
- Finnish: Pääministeri
- * For the head of state and government of the Philippines: Pangulo ng Pilipinas
- * For France, Belgium and Canada: Prime Minister of France; Prime Minister of Belgium; Prime Minister of Canada: Premier Ministre or Première Ministre, also as the term 'prime minister' generically.
- * For Switzerland: Conseil Fédéral
- Galician : Presidente/-a da Xunta de Galicia
- * For Germany and Austria: Chancellor of Germany; Chancellor of Austria: Bundeskanzler / Bundeskanzlerin
- * For Switzerland: Schweizerischer Bundesrat
- * The term 'head of government,' generically: Regierungschef/-in
- * The term 'prime minister,' generically: Ministerpräsident/-in; or Premierminister/-in
- * historically: Leitender Minister
- Greek: Πρωθυπουργός
- Hebrew: ראש הממשלה
- * The term 'head of government', generically: शासनप्रमुख, literally:'Chief of government'
- * The term 'Prime Minister', generically: प्रधानमन्त्री, literally:'Chief of Ministers/Prime Minister'
- * The other Hindustani term generically used for 'Prime Minister' : वज़ीर-ए-आज़म/, lit.:'Grand Vizier/Prime Minister' and the President of the United States of America in 1971
- * For 'Prime Minister of India' : भारतीय प्रधानमन्त्री/भारत के प्रधानमन्त्री, translation:'Indian Prime Minister/Prime Minister of India';
- * For 'Prime Minister of Pakistan': /, This is the term used in India and Pakistan under the umbrella of Urdu, the Hindi term being, पाकिस्तानी प्रधानमन्त्री/पाकिस्तान के प्रधानमन्त्री
- * Historically, various terms like Pradhānamantrī, Pradhān, Pantapradhān, Sadr-ē-Riyāsat, Sadr, Wazīr-ē-Āzam, Wazīr-ē-Ālā, Mahāmantrī, Wazīr-ē-Khazānā, Pēśwā, Dīwān, Dīwān Sāhib, Dīwān Bahādur, Dīwān Pramukh, Sadr-ul-Maham, Pantapramukh, Ālāmantrī, etc. have been used by various Empires, Kingdoms and Princely States of India as a title for the Prime Minister, some of these titles were also used by the sovereign of various kingdoms.
- Hungarian: Miniszterelnök
- Irish: Leader of Ireland: Taoiseach
- * For the head of government of Italy: Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri della Repubblica Italiana
- * When referring to other prime ministers: Primo ministro or Prima ministra
- * For Switzerland: Consiglio Federale
- * For the head of government of Japan : 首相
- * For the President of South Korea: Daetongryung
- * For the head of government of Latvia: Ministru prezidents
- * When referring to other prime ministers: Premjerministrs
- Lithuanian: Ministras pirmininkas
- Malay: In Malaysia, the head of government of the constituent states are expressed in the Malay language.
- Maltese: In Malta, the head of government is "Prim Ministru".
- Māori: Pirimia,
- Norwegian: Statsminister
- * For the head of government of Poland: Prezes Rady Ministrów
- * For the term 'prime minister' in general: Premier
- * For Brazil: Presidente/-a da República Federativa do Brasil
- * For Portugal and as the term 'prime minister' in general: Primeiro-ministro or Primeira-ministra
- Romanian: Prim-ministru
- Russian: Prem'yer-ministr
- Sinhalese: ශ්රී ලංකා අග්රාමාත්ය
- Slovak: Predseda vlády
- Slovene: Predsednik Vlade
- * For the head of government of Spain: Presidente/-a del gobierno de España
- * When referring to other prime ministers: Primer ministro or Primera Ministra
- * The term 'head of government', generically: jefe del gobierno
- Swahili: Sultan
- Swedish: Statsminister
- * For the head of government of Thailand: Nayok rathamontri
- Turkish: Başbakan
Under a dominant head of state
However, just because the head of state is the de jure dominant position does not mean that he/she will not always be the de facto political leader. A skilled head of government like 19th-century German statesman Otto von Bismarck, Minister President of Prussia and later Chancellor of Germany under Emperor/King Wilhelm I, serves as an example showing that possession of formal powers does not equal political influence.
Indirectly referred as the head of stateIn some cases, the head of state is a figurehead whilst the head of the government leads the ruling party. In some cases a head of government may even pass on the title in hereditary fashion. Such titles include the following:
- Mayor of the palace of the Merovingian kingdoms
- Nawab wasir of the Mughal Empire
- Peshwa of Satara and the Maratha empire
- Shōgun in feudal Japan
- Sultan in the original case of the Seljuk Turks who made the caliphs of Baghdad their puppets; later both styles were often used for absolute rulers in Nepal
Combined heads of state and government
- An absolute monarch reigning and ruling without a separate principal minister
- Chief magistrate
- Supreme leader
- A State Governor in the United States
Head of state for further explanation of these cases.
Parliamentary heads of governmentIn parliamentary systems, government functions along the following lines:
- The head of government — usually the leader of the majority party or coalition — forms the government, which is answerable to parliament;
- Full answerability of government to parliament is achieved through
- * The ability of parliament to pass a vote of no confidence.
- * The ability to vote down legislative proposals of the government.
- * Control over or ability to vote down fiscal measures and the budget ; a government is powerless without control of the state finances. In a bicameral system, it is often the so-called lower house, e.g. the British House of Commons that exercises the major elements of control and oversight; in some others, e.g. Australia and Italy, the government is constitutionally or by convention answerable to both chambers/Houses of Parliament.
AppointmentIn many countries, the Head of government is commissioned by the Head of state to form a government, on the basis of the strength of party support in the lower house, in some other states directly elected by parliament. Many parliamentary systems require ministers to serve in parliament, while others ban ministers from sitting in parliament; they must resign on becoming ministers.
RemovalHeads of government are typically removed from power in a parliamentary system by
- Resignation, following:
- * Defeat in a general election.
- * Defeat in a leadership vote at their party caucus, to be replaced by another member of the same party.
- * Defeat in a parliamentary vote on a major issue, e.g., loss of supply, loss of confidence.
- Dismissal — some constitutions allow a Head of state to dismiss a Head of government, though its use can be controversial, as occurred in 1975 when then Australian Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, dismissed Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in the Australian Constitutional Crisis.
- Death — in this case, the deputy Head of government typically acts as the head of government until a new head of government is appointed.
First among equals or dominating the cabinet?
Under the unwritten British constitution, the Prime Minister's role has evolved, based often on the individual's personal appeal and strength of character, as contrasted between, for example, Winston Churchill as against Clement Attlee, Margaret Thatcher as against John Major. It is alleged that the increased personalisation of leadership in a number of states has led to heads of government becoming themselves "semi-presidential" figures, due in part to media coverage of politics that focuses on the leader and his or her mandate, rather than on parliament; and to the increasing centralisation of power in the hands of the head of government. Such allegations have been made against two recent British Prime ministers; Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. They were also made against Italian prime ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Matteo Renzi, Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau and Federal Chancellor of West Germany, Helmut Kohl, when in power.
Official residenceThe head of government is often provided with an official residence, often in the same fashion as heads of state often are. The name of the residence is often used as a metonym or alternate title for 'the government' when the office is politically the highest, e.g. in the UK "Downing Street announced today…"
Well-known official residences of heads of government include:
- 10 Downing Street in London — Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
- 7, Lok Kalyan Marg in New Delhi — Prime Minister of India
- Catshuis — Prime Minister of the Netherlands
- Ballhausplatz in Vienna — Chancellor of Austria
- 24 Sussex Drive in Ottawa — Prime Minister of Canada
- Zhongnanhai in Beijing — Premier of the People's Republic of China
- Kantei in Tokyo — Prime Minister of Japan
- Kramář's Villa in Prague — Prime Minister of the Czech Republic
- Chigi Palace in Rome — Prime Minister of Italy
- The Lodge in Canberra — Prime Minister of Australia
- Hôtel Matignon in Paris— Prime Minister of France
- Federal Chancellery in Berlin — Chancellor of Germany
- The Lambermont in Brussels — Prime Minister of Belgium
- Palacio de la Moncloa in Madrid — President of the Government of Spain
- Palacete de São Bento in Lisbon — Prime Minister of Portugal
- Premier House in Wellington — Prime Minister of New Zealand
- Kesäranta in Helsinki — Prime Minister of Finland
- Sager House in Stockholm — Prime Minister of Sweden
- Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow — Prime Minister of Russia
- Hotel Errera in Brussels — Minister-President of the Flemish community and region
- Bavarian State Chancellery – Minister-President of the State of Bavaria
- Élysette in Namur — Minister-President of the Walloon Region
- Bute House, Edinburgh; First Minister of Scotland
- Hesse State Chancellery, Wiesbaden; Minister-President of the State of Hesse
- Kazan Kremlin, Kazan – President of Tatarstan
- Government House, Hong Kong – Chief Executive of Hong Kong
- Macau Government Headquarters – Chief Executive of Macau
- Red City Hall – Governing Mayor of Berlin
- Quinta Vigia – President of the Regional Government of Madeira
- The White House in Washington, D.C. — President of the United States of America
- The Blue House in Seoul — President of South Korea
- Istana Nurul Iman in Bandar Seri Begawan — Sultan of Brunei
- Palácio da Alvorada in Brasília — President of the Federative Republic of Brazil
- World's longest serving unelected head of government: Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain since 1971.
- World's longest serving monarchical head of government: Tage Erlander, Prime Minister of Sweden from 1946 to 1969.
- World's longest serving republican head of government: Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore from 1959 to 1990.