Head of Government – What it is, definition and concept

The Head of Government is the highest position in the Executive Power of a country, whose main function is to define the policy and direction to be followed by the State. As head of the Executive Power, he is also at the head of the Council of Ministers and the Public Administration.

The head of government, depending on the country, is also called chancellor, prime minister or president of the Government. But all the terms indicate the same thing.

The Head of Government is the person who heads the Executive and all its organs. In addition, he is in charge of defining the political strategy to be followed by the country as a whole. It is normally used to refer to the central government, but lower-level governments also have this figure, with similar powers, but with less responsibility and powers.

The figure of the head of government, as such, has a greater relevance in parliamentary countries, why?

Because in presidential regimes, the same person is head of government and head of state, with which power is greater. In semi-presidential elections, on the contrary, the leadership of the Executive Power must share it with the Head of State.

To know more about this figure, we are going to see all its characteristics according to the regime in question.

The head of government in parliamentary regimes

As we have mentioned previously, the Head of Government is an extremely important position in parliamentary regimes, since he does not share the Executive Power with anyone other than his ministers. The president together with his ministers constitute the government of a country. Another characteristic of the president is that he cannot make decisions unilaterally, but must be agreed upon by the Council of Ministers.

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Regarding his election, he is invested by the Chamber of Deputies, he is not directly elected by the citizens. When there is a general election, citizens directly elect the members of Parliament. And these, by an absolute majority, are in charge of electing the Prime Minister. Normally it tends to coincide with the most voted party, since that way it is easier to set up a majority.

Some of the powers and functions that the head of government usually has are the following:

  • It is the direction of domestic and foreign policy.
  • He is the head of the Armed Forces.
  • It has some legislative powers.
  • He chairs and directs the Council of Ministers.
  • It has other non-exclusive functions, that is, functions that correspond to the entire Government, such as the granting of pardons.

Regarding your dismissal, there are several reasons why you can leave the position. Due to death, due to the holding of other elections, resignation, due to the loss of the trust issue or due to the success of a motion of censure.

The head of government in presidential regimes

In presidential regimes, the head of government and the head of state are the same person. For this reason, as in parliamentarism, the president together with his ministers make up the Executive Power. But it does have some exclusive powers, whose decisions can be taken unilaterally, without having the support of its ministers.

Regarding his election, the head of government in presidential regimes is directly elected by citizens by universal suffrage. The components of the chambers that make up the Legislative Power; and on the other hand the president, they are chosen in different elections. This means that the legitimacy of the president is more reinforced in that the parliamentary countries. Once in office, he chooses the ministers who will make up his cabinet.

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The functions and powers of the Head of Government are even greater than in the previous case, since he also has those of the Head of State. The legislation of each country establishes the exact powers of each president, but many of them have the same functions.

That is why we are going to see the American case:

  • The Constitution of the United States states that the president is also the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, that is, its highest authority.
  • It is also responsible for the enforcement of laws passed by Congress.
  • The Government of the nation and its Administration is directed by him and his Government.
  • Agencies like the CIA also report ultimately to the president.
  • The appointment of the independent federal commissions also depends on him, he also appoints ambassadors and other positions.
  • In the legislative area, you can either sign the legislation or, conversely, veto it.
  • Finally, it is on whom foreign policy and adherence to international treaties depend.

In general, the resignation of the president occurs due to death; termination of the mandate; resignation; physical or mental disability; or by impeachment, also called impeachment.

The head of government in semi-presidential regimes

Presidentialism is a system that is characterized by mixing elements of the two previous regimes.

In these regimes, the head of government is elected by the head of state, that is, by the president of the republic. In some cases it will do so without the support of the Legislative Power, as is the case in France, and in others it will require the approval of Parliament, as is the case in Ukraine.

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Among its functions, the following stand out:

  • The head of government proposes his ministers to the head of state, who must appoint them.
  • He is the one who exercises the presidency and direction of the Council of Ministers.
  • It has powers such as directing government action, as well as national defense.
  • It has regulatory power and is responsible for appointing some positions.
  • The decisions of the prime minister, as occurs in parliamentary regimes, need the consensus of his cabinet.
  • In short, he shares the executive with the head of state, who holds a position of superiority and has more powers than the head of government.

Finally, the head of government can be freely dismissed by the president of the republic, for the loss of a question of confidence, or for the success of a vote of no confidence.

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