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Political Principles IIIExecutive Power

 

The word ‘executive’ means ‘doing’. The executive of a country is usually its cabinet of ministers. These ministers are responsible for the day-to-day business of government. Although we refer to a prime minister or a president who has executive power as the head of government, he or she is almost always part of a group of ministers known as the cabinet, which exercises executive power collectively. When executive decisions are made, they are presented as cabinet decisions, rather than the decisions of the president or the prime minister.

 

The cabinet consists of ministers (known as secretaries in a few countries like the United States) who run various government departments and decide what needs to be done in the various areas or ministries for which they are responsible. Major decisions however, or decisions concerning policy, are brought before the cabinet so that they can be taken collectively.

Prime minister means ‘first minister’. When the cabinet system of government developed, the prime minister was simply the chief among the advisers of the executive monarch. It was the monarch who appointed the cabinet, the term used to refer to the whole body of his advisers. As countries developed politically, the advisers, who were supposed to be representatives of the people, acquired greater decision-making power. In time, in democracies, their leader became more important than the monarch. So now, in many countries, the prime minister has greater decision-making powers than his colleagues in the cabinet.

In some countries such as the United States, an executive president is the head of government, and therefore the head of the cabinet. Since such a president has been elected direct by the people, he or she has greater powers in relation to the rest of the cabinet than a prime minister, who has been elected along with several others. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rajiva Wijesinha

April 2015
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