HOME

TheInfoList




The Westminster system or Westminster model is a type of
parliamentary A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic Democrat, Democrats, or Democratic may refer to: *A proponent of democracy Democracy ( gr, δημοκρατία, ''dēmokratiā'', from ''dēmos'' 'people' and ...
government that incorporates a series of
procedures Procedure may refer to: * Medical procedure * Instructions or recipes, a set of commands that show how to achieve some result, such as to prepare or make something * Procedure (business), specifying parts of a business process * Standard operatin ...
for operating a
legislature A legislature is an deliberative assembly, assembly with the authority to make laws for a Polity, political entity such as a Sovereign state, country or city. They are often contrasted with the Executive (government), executive and Judiciary, ...
. This concept was first developed in
England England is a that is part of the . It shares land borders with to its west and to its north. The lies northwest of England and the to the southwest. England is separated from by the to the east and the to the south. The country cover ...

England
. Key aspects of the system include an
executive branch The executive is the branch of government exercising authority in and holding Moral responsibility, responsibility for the governance of a State (polity), state. The executive executes and enforces law. In political systems based on the princi ...
made up of members of the legislature, and that is responsible to the legislature; the presence of
parliamentary opposition Parliamentary opposition is a form of opposition (politics), political opposition to a designated government, particularly in a Westminster system, Westminster-based parliamentary system. This article uses the term ''executive (government), gover ...
parties; and a ceremonial
head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role that one adopts, or a fictional cha ...
who is different from the
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 An autonomous administrative division (also referred ...
. The term comes from the
Palace of Westminster The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons The House of Commons is the name for the elected lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Towns ...

Palace of Westminster
, the current seat of the
Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the of the , the and the . It alone possesses and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is but has three parts, consisting of the ...
. The Westminster system is often contrasted with the
presidential system A presidential system, or single executive system, is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, governmen ...
that originated in the United States, or with the
semi-presidential A semi-presidential system or dual executive system is a system of government in which a president exists alongside a prime minister and a cabinet, with the latter being responsible to the legislature of the state. It differs from a parliam ...
system, based on the government of France. The Westminster system is used, or was once used, in the national and
subnational
subnational
legislatures of most former colonies of the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
upon gaining
self-government __NOTOC__ Self-governance, self-government, or self-rule is the ability of a person or group to exercise all necessary functions of regulation Regulation is the management of complex systems according to a set of rules and trends. In systems ...
(a notable exception to this being the
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country in . It consists of 50 , a , five major , 326 , and some . At , it is the world's . The United States shares significan ...
), beginning with the first of the
Canadian provinces The provinces and territories of Canada are sub-national divisions within the geographical areas of Canada under the jurisdiction of the Constitution of Canada, Canadian Constitution. In the 1867 Canadian Confederation, three provinces of Britis ...
in 1848 and the six
Australian colonies The history of Australia is the story of the land and peoples of the continent of Australia. Aboriginal Australians Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples of the Mainland Australia, Australian mainland and many of its i ...
between 1855 and 1890. It is the form of government bequeathed to
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ) is an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. It consists of two main landmasses—the North Island () and the South Island ()—and more than 700 List of islands of New Zealand, smaller islands, coveri ...

New Zealand
, and former
British Hong Kong Hong Kong was a colony and dependent territory A dependent territory, dependent area, or dependency (sometimes referred as an external territory) is a territory that does not possess full political independence or sovereignty as a sove ...
. The State of
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
adopted a largely Westminster-inspired
system of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a State (polity), state. In the case of its broad associative definition, government normally consists of legislature, executive, and judiciary. ...
upon declaring independence from the British Mandate of Palestine. However, some former colonies have since adopted either the
presidential system A presidential system, or single executive system, is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state. In the case of its broad associative definition, governmen ...
(
Nigeria Nigeria (), officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a country in West Africa West Africa or Western Africa is the westernmost region of Africa. The United Nations defines Western Africa as the 17 countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, C ...

Nigeria
for example) or a hybrid system (like
South Africa South Africa, officially the Republic of South Africa (RSA), is the southernmost country in Africa. With over 60 million people, it is the world's 23rd-most populous nation and covers an area of . South Africa has three capital cities ...

South Africa
) as their form of government.


Characteristics

The Westminster system of government may include some of the following features: * A
sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French ''souverain'', which is ultimately derived from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the It ...
or
head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role that one adopts, or a fictional cha ...
who functions as the nominal or legal and constitutional holder of executive power, and holds numerous
reserve power In a parliamentary A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic governance Governance comprises all of the processes of governing – whether undertaken by the government of a state (polity), state, by a ma ...
s, but whose daily duties mainly consist of performing ceremonial functions. Examples include Queen
Elizabeth II Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is Queen of the United Kingdom and 14 other Commonwealth realms. Elizabeth was born in Mayfair, London, as the first child of the Duke of York, Duke and Duchess of York (later Ki ...

Elizabeth II
, the governors-general in the
Commonwealth realms A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permane ...

Commonwealth realms
, or the presidents of many countries, and state or provincial
governor A governor is, in most cases, a public official with the power to govern the Executive (government), executive branch of a non-sovereign or sub-national level of government, ranking under the head of state. In federations, ''governor'' may be t ...

governor
s in federal systems. Exceptions to this are
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island upright=1.15, Great_Britain.html"_;"title="Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain">Ireland_(left)_and_Great_Britain_(right),_are_large_islands_of_north-west_Europe image:Small_Island_in ...
and
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...
, whose presidents are de jure and de facto ceremonial, and the latter possesses no reserve powers whatsoever. * A
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 An autonomous administrative division (also referred ...
(or head of the executive), known as the
prime minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpar ...
(PM),
premier Premier is a title for the head of government in central governments, state governments and local governments of some countries. A second in command to a premier is designated as a deputy premier. Examples by country The word comes from frenc ...

premier
, chief minister or first minister. While the head of state appoints the head of government, constitutional convention suggests that a majority of elected members of parliament must support the person appointed. If more than half of elected parliamentarians belong to the same political party, then the parliamentary
leader Leadership, both as a research area and as a practical skill, encompasses the ability of an individual, group or organization An organization, or organisation (English in the Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth English; American and Br ...

leader
of that party typically is appointed. An exception to this was
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
, in which direct prime-ministerial elections were made in
1996 1996 was designated as: * International Year for the Eradication of Poverty Events January * January 3 – Motorola introduces the Motorola StarTAC Wearable Cellular Telephone, the first clamshell mobile phone. * January 5 – Hamas ...
, 1999 and
2001 2001 was designated as International Year of Volunteers. Events January * January 1 January 1 or 1 January is the first day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar. There are 364 days remaining until the end of the year (365 in leap y ...
. * An
executive branch The executive (short for executive branch or executive power) is the part of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, a ...
led by the head of government usually made up of members of the legislature with the senior members of the executive in a
cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
adhering to the principle of
cabinet collective responsibility Cabinet collective responsibility, also known as collective ministerial responsibility, is a in s that members of the must publicly support all governmental decisions made in Cabinet, even if they do not privately agree with them. This support i ...
; such members execute executive authority on behalf of the nominal or theoretical executive authority. * An independent, non-partisan
civil service The civil service is a collective term for a sector of government composed mainly of career civil servants hired on professional merit rather than appointed or elected, whose institutional tenure typically survives transitions of political leader ...
that advises on, and implements, decisions of the elected government. Civil servants hold permanent appointments and can expect merit-based selection processes and continuity of employment when governments change. * A
parliamentary opposition Parliamentary opposition is a form of opposition (politics), political opposition to a designated government, particularly in a Westminster system, Westminster-based parliamentary system. This article uses the term ''executive (government), gover ...
(in a
multi-party system In political science Political science is the scientific study of politics Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with making decisions in groups, or other forms of power relations between individuals, such ...
) with an official
leader of the opposition The Leader of the Opposition is a title traditionally held by the leader of the largest party not in government in a parliamentary democracy. The Leader of the Opposition is seen as the alternative Prime Minister, Premier, First Minister, or Ch ...
. * A legislature, often
bicameral Bicameralism is a type of legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interac ...
, with at least one elected house—although
unicameral In government, unicameralism (Latin , "one" and , "chamber") is the practice of having a single legislative or legislative chamber, parliamentary chamber. Thus, a ''unicameral parliament'' or ''unicameral legislature'' is a legislature which co ...
systems also exist. Traditionally, the lower house is elected using
first-past-the-post In a first-past-the-post electoral system An electoral system or voting system is a set of rules that determine how elections and Referendum, referendums are conducted and how their results are determined. Political electoral systems are org ...
from single-member districts, which is still more common, although some use a system of
proportional representation#REDIRECT Proportional representation Proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems in which divisions in an electorate are reflected proportionately in the elected body. The concept applies mainly to geographical, and to ideolog ...

proportional representation
(e.g.
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...
,
New Zealand New Zealand ( mi, Aotearoa ''Aotearoa'' (; commonly pronounced by English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon Engl ...
),
parallel voting Parallel voting describes a mixed electoral system where voters in effect participate in two separate elections for a single chamber using different systems, and where the results in one election have little or no impact on the results of the oth ...
(e.g.
Japan Japan ( ja, 日本, or , and formally ) is an island country An island country or an island nation is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land of an in ...
), or
preferential voting Preferential voting or preference voting (PV) may refer to different Electoral system, election systems or groups of election systems: * Ranked voting methods, all election methods that involve ranking candidates in order of preference (United Sta ...
(e.g.
Papua New Guinea Papua New Guinea (PNG; , ; tpi, Papua Niugini; ho, Papua Niu Gini), officially the Independent State of Papua New Guinea ( tpi, Independen Stet bilong Papua Niugini; ho, Independen Stet bilong Papua Niu Gini), is a country in Oceania ...
,
Australia Australia, officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a Sovereign state, sovereign country comprising the mainland of the Australia (continent), Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous List of islands of Australia, sma ...
). * A
lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporated community in Apache County *Chambers, Nebraska *Chambers, We ...
of parliament with an ability to dismiss a government by " withholding (or blocking) supply" (rejecting a budget), passing a
motion of no confidence A motion of no confidence, vote of no confidence, or no confidence motion, sometimes in the reverse as a motion of confidence or vote of confidence, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility (government, manage ...
, or defeating a
confidence motion A motion of no confidence, vote of no confidence, or no confidence motion, sometimes in the reverse as a motion of confidence or vote of confidence, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility (government, manager ...
. * A parliament that can be dissolved and
snap election Snap or SNAP may refer to: Arts and entertainment * ''Snap'' (film), the original release title for the 2013 film ''Enter the Dangerous Mind'' *''Snap'' (TV series), a CITV programme * ''Stanly News and Press'', a newspaper in Albemarle, North C ...
s called at any time. *
Parliamentary privilege Parliamentary privilege is a legal immunity enjoyed by members of certain legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, pat ...
, which allows the legislature to discuss any issue it deems relevant without fear of consequences stemming from defamatory statements or records thereof. * Minutes of meetings, often known as
Hansard ''Hansard'' is the traditional name of the transcripts of Parliamentary debates in Britain and many Commonwealth of Nations, Commonwealth countries. It is named after Thomas Curson Hansard (1776–1833), a London printer and publisher, who was t ...
, including an ability for the legislature to strike discussion from these minutes. * The ability of courts to address silence or ambiguity in the
statutory law Statutory law or statute law is written law passed by a body of legislature. This is as opposed to Oral law, oral or customary law; or regulatory law promulgated by the Executive (government), executive or common law of the judiciary. Statutes may ...
through the development of
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black's Law Dictionary'' is the most-us ...
. Another parallel system of legal principles also exists known as
equity Equity may refer to: Finance, accounting and ownership *Equity (finance), ownership of assets that have liabilities attached to them ** Stock, equity based on original contributions of cash or other value to a business ** Home equity, the differe ...
. Exceptions to this include India, Quebec in Canada, and Scotland in the UK, among other countries who mix common law with other legal systems. Most of the procedures of the Westminster system originated with the conventions, practices, and
precedent A precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case A legal case is in a general sense a dispute between opposing parties which may be resolved by a court A court is any person or institution, often as a government inst ...
s of the
Parliament of the United Kingdom The Parliament of the United Kingdom is the of the , the and the . It alone possesses and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is but has three parts, consisting of the ...
, which form a part of what is known as the
Constitution of the United Kingdom The Constitution of the United Kingdom or British constitution comprises the written and unwritten arrangements that establish the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ire ...
. Unlike the uncodified British constitution, most countries that use the Westminster system have codified the system, at least in part, in a written
constitution A constitution is an aggregate of fundamental principles A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule Rule or ruling may refer to: Human activity * The exercise of political ...

constitution
. However, uncodified conventions, practices, and precedents continue to play a significant role in most countries, as many constitutions do not specify important elements of procedure. For example, some older constitutions using the Westminster system do not mention the existence of the cabinet or the prime minister, because these offices were taken for granted by the authors of these constitutions. Sometimes these conventions,
reserve powers Reserve or reserves may refer to: Places * Reserve, Kansas Reserve is a city in Brown County, Kansas, Brown County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census, the city population was 84. It is located approximate ...
, and other influences collide in times of crisis and in such times the weaknesses of the unwritten aspects of the Westminster system, as well as the strengths of the Westminster system's flexibility, are put to the test. As an illustrative example, in the
Australian constitutional crisis of 1975 The 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, also known simply as the Dismissal, culminated on 11 November 1975 with the dismissal from office of the Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam Edward Gough Whitlam (; 11 July 191621 October 2014) was t ...
the Governor-General of Australia,
Sir John Kerr Sir John Robert Kerr (24 September 1914 – 24 March 1991) was an Australian barrister and judge who served as the 18th Governor-General of Australia The governor-general of Australia is the representative of the monarch A monarch is ...
, dismissed Prime Minister
Gough Whitlam Edward Gough Whitlam (; 11 July 191621 October 2014) was the 21st prime minister of Australia The prime minister of Australia is the head of government The head of government is either the highest or second highest official in the ex ...
and replaced him with opposition leader
Malcolm Fraser John Malcolm Fraser (; 21 May 1930 – 20 March 2015) was an Australian politician who served as the 22nd prime minister of Australia, in office from 1975 to 1983 as leader of the Liberal Party of Australia The Liberal Party of Austral ...

Malcolm Fraser
.


Summary of the typical structure of the Westminster model


Operation

The pattern of executive functions within a Westminster system is quite complex. In essence, the
head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role that one adopts, or a fictional ch ...
, usually a
monarch A monarch is a head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role tha ...

monarch
or president, is a ceremonial figurehead who is the theoretical, nominal or source of executive power within the system. In practice, such a figure does not actively exercise executive powers, even though executive authority is nominally exercised in their name. The
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 An autonomous administrative division (also referred ...
, usually called the
prime minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpar ...
or
premier Premier is a title for the head of government in central governments, state governments and local governments of some countries. A second in command to a premier is designated as a deputy premier. Examples by country The word comes from frenc ...

premier
, will ideally have the support of a majority in the responsible house, and must, in any case, be able to ensure the existence of no
absolute majority A supermajority, supra-majority, qualified majority or special majority, is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level of support which is greater than the threshold of more than one-half used for a majority A majority, also called ...
against the government. If the parliament passes a
motion of no confidence A motion of no confidence, vote of no confidence, or no confidence motion, sometimes in the reverse as a motion of confidence or vote of confidence, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility (government, manage ...
, or refuses to pass an important
bill Bill(s) may refer to: Common meanings * Banknote A banknote (often known as a bill (in the US and Canada), paper money, or simply a note) is a type of negotiable instrument, negotiable promissory note, made by a bank or other licensed author ...
such as the
budget A budget is a financial plan In general usage, a financial plan is a comprehensive evaluation of an individual's current pay and future financial state by using current known variables to predict future income, asset values and withdrawal p ...

budget
, then the government must either resign so that a different government can be appointed or seek a parliamentary dissolution so that new general elections may be held in order to re-confirm or deny the government's mandate. Executive authority within a Westminster system is de jure exercised by the cabinet as a whole, along with more junior
minister Minister may refer to: * Minister (Christianity)Image:LutheranClergy.JPG, upA Lutheran minister wearing a Geneva gown and Bands (neckwear), bands. In many churches, ministers wear distinctive clothing, called vestments, when presiding over service ...
s, however, in effect, the head of government dominates the executive as the head of government is ultimately the person from whom the
head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role that one adopts, or a fictional cha ...
will take advice (by constitutional convention) on the exercise of
executive power The executive (short for executive branch or executive power) is the part of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, ...
, including the appointment and dismissal of cabinet members. This results in the situation where individual cabinet members in effect serve at the pleasure of the prime minister. Thus the cabinet is strongly subordinate to the prime minister as they can be replaced at any time, or can be moved ("demoted") to a different portfolio in a
cabinet reshuffle A cabinet reshuffle or shuffle is when a 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, ...
for "underperforming". In the United Kingdom, the sovereign theoretically holds executive authority, even though the
prime minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...
and the
cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transparent glass sheets or transparent polycarbonate sheets * Filing ...
effectively implement executive powers. In a
parliamentary republicThe Parliamentary Republic can refer to: * A republican form of government with a Parliamentary system A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democracy, democratic government, governance of a sovereign state, state (o ...
like India, the
president President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...
is the executive, even though executive powers are essentially instituted by the
prime minister A prime minister or a premier is the head of the cabinet Cabinet or The Cabinet may refer to: Furniture * Cabinetry, a box-shaped piece of furniture with doors and/or drawers * Display cabinet, a piece of furniture with one or more transpa ...

prime minister
and the
Council of MinistersThe Council of Ministers is a traditional name given to the supreme executive organ in some governments. The term is usually equivalent to the word " cabinet" ( Council of State is a similar term that also may refer to a Cabinet. However, the terms ...
. In
Israel Israel (; he, יִשְׂרָאֵל, translit=Yīsrāʾēl; ar, إِسْرَائِيل, translit=ʾIsrāʾīl), officially the State of Israel ( he, מְדִינַת יִשְׂרָאֵל, label=none, translit=Medīnat Yīsrāʾēl; ), is a ...

Israel
, however, executive power is vested and in the cabinet and the
president President most commonly refers to: *President (corporate title) A president is a leader of an organization, company, community, club, trade union, university or other group. The relationship between a president and a Chief Executive Officer, chi ...
is and a ceremonial figurehead. As an example, the prime minister and cabinet (as the ''
de facto ''De facto'' ( ; , "in fact") describes practices that exist in reality, even though they are not officially recognized by laws. It is commonly used to refer to what happens in practice, in contrast with ''de jure'' ("by law"), which refers to th ...
'' executive body in the system) generally must seek the permission of the head of state when carrying out executive functions. If, for instance the
British prime minister The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the 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, auton ...
wished to dissolve Parliament in order for a
general election A general election is a political voting election where generally all or most members of a given political body are chosen. These are usually held for a nation, state, or territory's primary legislative body, and are different from by-election ...
to take place, the prime minister is constitutionally bound to request permission from the
sovereign Sovereign is a title which can be applied to the highest leader in various categories. The word is borrowed from Old French Old French (, , ; Modern French French ( or ) is a Romance language of the Indo-European family. It descende ...
in order to attain such a wish. However, the sovereign in modern times has virtually always followed the advice of their prime minister without their own agency, this owes to the fact that the British sovereign is a
constitutional monarch A constitutional monarchy, parliamentary monarchy, or democratic monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises his authority in accordance with a constitution and is not alone in deciding. Constitutional monarchies differ from a ...
; he or she abides by the advice of his or her ministers, except when executing
reserve power In a parliamentary A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic governance Governance comprises all of the processes of governing – whether undertaken by the government of a state (polity), state, by a ma ...
s in times of crisis. The sovereign's power to appoint and dismiss governments, appoint cabinet
minister Minister may refer to: * Minister (Christianity)Image:LutheranClergy.JPG, upA Lutheran minister wearing a Geneva gown and Bands (neckwear), bands. In many churches, ministers wear distinctive clothing, called vestments, when presiding over service ...
s to serve in the government, appoint
diplomat A diplomat (from grc, δίπλωμα; romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( ...
s, declare
war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (new ...

war
, and to sign
treaties A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally accepted in relati ...

treaties
(among other powers de jure held by the sovereign) is known as the
royal prerogative The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege and immunity, recognized in common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi- ...
, which in modern times is exercised by the sovereign solely on the advice of the Prime Minister. This custom also occurs in other countries are regions around the world using the Westminster System, as a legacy of
British colonial rule British may refer to: Peoples, culture, and language * British people The British people, or Britons, are the citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British Overseas Territories, and the Crown dependenc ...
. In Commonwealth realms such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the day-to-day functions that would be exercised by the sovereign personally in the United Kingdom are instead exercised by the governor-general. In such nations, the prime minister is obligated to formally seek permission from the governor-general when implementing executive decisions, in a manner similar to the British system. An analogous scenario also exists in republics in the Commonwealth of Nations, such as India or Trinidad and Tobago, where there is a president who functions similarly to a governor-general. A unique case lies in Prime Minister of Israel, Israel and Prime Minister of Japan, Japan, where the respective prime ministers have the full legal power to implement executive decisions, and President of Israel, presidential (in Israel) or Emperor of Japan, imperial (in Japan) approval is not required; the prime ministers of these nations are fully the ''de jure'' source of executive authority, and not the head of state. The head of state will often hold meetings with the head of government and cabinet, as a means of keeping abreast of governmental policy and as a means of advising, consulting and warning ministers in their actions. Such a practice takes place in the United Kingdom and India. In the UK, the sovereign holds confidential weekly meetings with the prime minister to discuss governmental policy and to offer her opinions and advice on issues of the day. In India, the prime minister is constitutionally bound to hold regular sessions with the president, in a similar manner to the aforementioned British practice. In essence, the head of state, as the theoretical executive authority, "reigns but does not rule". This phrase means that the head of state's role in government is generally ceremonial and as a result does not directly institute executive powers. The
reserve powers Reserve or reserves may refer to: Places * Reserve, Kansas Reserve is a city in Brown County, Kansas, Brown County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, 2010 census, the city population was 84. It is located approximate ...
of the head of state are sufficient to ensure compliance with some of their wishes. However, the extent of such powers varies from one country to another and is often a matter of controversy. Such an executive arrangement first emerged in the United Kingdom. Historically, the British Sovereign, British sovereign held and directly exercised all executive authority. George I of Great Britain (reigned 1714 to 1727) was the first British monarch to delegate some executive powers to a prime minister and a cabinet of the ministers, largely because he was also the monarch of Hanover in Germany and did not speak English fluently. Over time, further arrangements continued to allow the execution of executive authority on the sovereign's behalf and more and more de facto power ended up lying in the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister's hands. Such a concept was reinforced in ''The English Constitution'' (1876) by Walter Bagehot, who distinguished between the separate "dignified" and "efficient" functions of government. The sovereign should be a focal point for the nation ("dignified"), while the PM and cabinet actually undertook executive decisions ("efficient").


Electoral system, ministers and officials

The electoral system is often set out in a Representation of the People Act. Common ministerial titles include parliamentary secretary and Undersecretary, under-secretary. Ministers are supported by Private secretary, private secretaries and government departments are run by Permanent secretary, permanent secretaries, Principal Secretary (disambiguation), principal secretaries or Chief Secretary (disambiguation), chief secretaries.


Role of the head of state

The
head of state A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona A persona (plural personae or personas), depending on the context, can refer to either the public image of one's personality, or the social role that one adopts, or a fictional ch ...
or his or her representative (such as a governor-general) formally appoints as the
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 An autonomous administrative division (also referred ...
whoever commands the Confidence and supply, confidence of the Lower house, lower or Unicameralism, sole house of the legislature and invites him or her to form a government. In the UK, this is known as Kiss Hands, kissing hands. Although the dissolution of the legislature and the call for new elections is formally performed by the head of state, the head of state, by convention, acts according to the wishes of the head of government. A president, monarch, or governor-general might possess clearly significant
reserve power In a parliamentary A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democratic governance Governance comprises all of the processes of governing – whether undertaken by the government of a state (polity), state, by a ma ...
s. Examples of the use of such powers include the Australian constitutional crisis of 1975 and the Canadian King–Byng affair in 1926. The Lascelles Principles were an attempt to create a convention to cover similar situations, but have not been tested in practice. Because of differences in their written constitutions, the formal powers of monarchs, governors-general, and presidents vary greatly from one country to another. However, as sovereigns and governors-general are not elected, and some presidents may not be directly elected by the people, they are often shielded from any public disapproval stemming from unilateral or controversial use of their powers. In many
Commonwealth realms A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity that is represented by one centralized government that has sovereignty over a geographic area. International law defines sovereign states as having a permane ...

Commonwealth realms
a governor-general formally represents the monarch, who is usually absent from the realm. In such countries, the identity of the "head of state" may be unclear.


Cabinet government

In the book ''The English Constitution'', Walter Bagehot emphasised the divide of the constitution into two components, the Dignified (that part which is symbolic) and the Efficient (the way things actually work and get done), and called the Efficient "Cabinet Government". Although there have been many works since emphasising different aspects of the "Efficient", no one has seriously questioned Bagehot's premise that the divide exists in the Westminster system. Members of the Cabinet are collectively seen as responsible for government policy, a policy termed
cabinet collective responsibility Cabinet collective responsibility, also known as collective ministerial responsibility, is a in s that members of the must publicly support all governmental decisions made in Cabinet, even if they do not privately agree with them. This support i ...
. All Cabinet decisions are made by consensus, a vote is rarely taken in a Cabinet meeting. All ministers, whether senior and in the Cabinet, or junior ministers, must support the policy of the government publicly regardless of any private reservations. When a Cabinet reshuffle is imminent, a lot of time is taken up in the conversations of politicians and in the news media, speculating on who will, or will not, be moved in and out of the Cabinet by the Prime Minister, because the appointment of ministers to the Cabinet, and threat of dismissal from the Cabinet, is the single most powerful constitutional power which a Prime Minister has in the political control of the Government in the Westminster system. The Official Opposition and other major political parties not in the Government, will mirror the governmental organisation with their own Shadow Cabinet made up of Shadow Ministers.


Bicameral and unicameral parliaments

In a Westminster system, some members of parliament are elected by popular vote, while others are appointed. Nearly all Westminster-based parliaments have a
lower house A lower house is one of two chambers Chambers may refer to: Places Canada: *Chambers Township, Ontario United States: *Chambers County, Alabama *Chambers, Arizona, an unincorporated community in Apache County *Chambers, Nebraska *Chambers, We ...
with powers based on those of the British House of Commons, House of Commons (under various names), comprising local, elected representatives of the people (with Knesset, the only exception being elected entirely by nationwide Proportional Representation). Most also have a smaller upper house, which is made up of members chosen by various methods: * Termless appointees, either lifetime or retiring, from successive prime ministers (such as the Senate of Canada) * Appointees of the premier and the opposition leader (such as the Jamaican Senate) * Direct election (such as the Australian Senate) * Election by electoral colleges or sub-national legislatures (such as the Indian Rajya Sabha) * Hereditary nobility (such as the British House of Lords until the House of Lords Act 1999) * Any combination of the above (such as the Malaysian Dewan Negara, Senate) In the UK, the lower house is the legislative body, while the upper house practices restraint in exercising its constitutional powers and serves as a consultative body. In other Westminster countries, however, the upper house can sometimes exercise considerable power, such as is the case for the Australian Senate. Some Westminster-derived parliaments are unicameral for two reasons: * The New Zealand Parliament, Parliament of Queensland, and the parliaments of Canadian provinces have abolished their upper houses. * The Parliament of Malta, the National Parliament of Papua New Guinea, Papua New Guinea Parliament, the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, and the Knesset, Israeli Parliament never had upper houses. Hong Kong, a former British crown colony and currently a Special administrative regions of China, special administrative region of the China, People's Republic of China, has a unicameral Legislative Council of Hong Kong, Legislative Council. While the Legislative Councils in British Australasian and North American colonies were unelected upper houses and some of them had since abolished themselves, the Legislative Council of Hong Kong has remained the sole chamber and had in 1995 evolved into a fully elected house, yet only part of the seats are returned by universal suffrage. Responsible government was never granted during British colonial rule, and the Governor of Hong Kong, Governor remained the
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 An autonomous administrative division (also referred ...
until the transfer of sovereignty in 1997, when the role was replaced by the Chief Executive (Hong Kong), Chief Executive. Secretaries had remained to be chosen by the Chief Executive not from the Legislative Council, and their appointments need not be approved by the Legislative Council. Although essentially more presidential than parliamentary, the Legislative Council had inherited many elements of the Westminster system, including parliamentary powers, privileges and immunity, and the right to conduct inquiries, amongst others. Minutes are known as Hansards, and the theme colour of the meeting chamber is red as in other upper houses. Government secretaries and other officials are seated on the right hand side of the President of the Legislative Council of Hong Kong, President in the chamber. The Chief Executive may dissolve the Legislative Council under certain conditions, and is obliged to resign, e.g., when a re-elected Legislative Council passes again a bill that he or she had refused to sign.


'Washminster' system of Australia

Australian constitutional law is, in many respects, a unique hybrid with influences from the United States Constitution as well as from the traditions and conventions of the Westminster system. Australia is exceptional because the government faces a fully elected upper house, the Australian Senate, Senate, which must be willing to pass all its legislation. Although government is formed in the lower house, the House of Representatives, the support of the Senate is necessary in order to govern. The Senate maintains the ability similar to that held by the British House of Lords, prior to the enactment of the Parliament Act 1911, to block supply against the government of the day. A government that is unable to obtain supply can be dismissed by the Governor-General of Australia, governor-general: however, this is generally considered a last resort and is a highly controversial decision to take, given the conflict between the traditional concept of confidence as derived from the lower house and the ability of the Senate to block supply. Many political scientists have held that the Politics of Australia, Australian system of government was consciously devised as a blend or hybrid of the Westminster and the Federal Government of the United States, United States systems of government, especially since the Australian Senate is a powerful upper house like the U.S. Senate; this notion is expressed in the nickname "the Washminster mutation". The ability of upper houses to block supply also features in the Parliaments of the Australian states and territories, parliaments of most Australian states. The 'Washminster' system of Australia has also been referred to as a semi-parliamentary system.


Ceremonies

The Westminster system has a very distinct appearance when functioning, with many British customs incorporated into day-to-day government function. A Westminster-style parliament is usually a long, rectangular room, with two rows of seats and desks on either side. Many chambers connect the opposing rows, either with a perpendicular row of seats and desks at the furthermost point from the Speaker's Chair at the opposite end of the chamber (e.g. UK House of Lords or Israel Knesset) or the rows of chairs and desks are rounded at the end, opposite to the Speaker's Chair (e.g. Australian chambers, Ireland, South Africa, India). The chairs in which both the government and opposition sit, are positioned so that the two rows are facing each other. This arrangement is said to have derived from an early Parliament which was held in a Church (building), church Choir (architecture), choir. Traditionally, the opposition parties will sit in one row of seats, and the government party will sit in the other. Of course, sometimes a majority government is so large that it must use the "opposition" seats as well. In the lower house at Westminster (the House of Commons) there are lines on the floor in front of the government and opposition benches that members may cross only when exiting the chamber. It is often rumoured that the distance between the lines is that of the length of two swords although no documentary evidence exists to support this and, in fact, weapons have never been allowed in the Palace of Westminster at any time. At one end of the room sits a large chair, for the Speaker of the House of Commons (United Kingdom), Speaker of the House. The speaker usually wears black robes, and in some countries, a Wig (hair), wig. Robed parliamentary Clerk (position), clerks often sit at narrow tables between the two rows of seats, as well. These narrow tables in the centre of the chamber, is usually where ministers or members of the house come to speak. Other ceremonies sometimes associated with the Westminster system include an annual Speech from the Throne (or equivalent) in which the head of state gives a special address (written by the government) to parliament about what kind of policies to expect in the coming year, and lengthy State Opening of Parliament ceremonies that often involve the presentation of a large ceremonial mace. Some legislatures retain Westminster's colour-coded chambers, with the upper houses associated with the colour red (after the House of Lords) and the lower with green (after the House of Commons). This is the case in India, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Barbados.


Current countries

Countries that use variations on the theme of the Westminster system, as of 2021, include the following:


Former countries

The Westminster system was adopted by a number of countries which subsequently evolved or reformed their system of government departing from the original model. In some cases, certain aspects of the Westminster system were retained or codified in their constitutions. For instance Government of South Africa, South Africa and Politics of Botswana, Botswana, unlike Commonwealth realms or parliamentary republics such as India, have a combined head of state and head of government but the President remains responsible to the lower house of parliament; it elects the President at the beginning of a new Parliament, or when there is a vacancy in the office, or when the sitting President is defeated on a vote of confidence. If the Parliament cannot elect a new President within a short period of time (a week to a month) the lower house is dissolved and new elections are called. * The between 1910 and 1961, and the between 1961 and 1984. The 1983 constitution abolished the Westminster system in South Africa. * The gave up self-government in 1934 and reverted to direct rule from London. Use of the Westminster system resumed in 1949 when Newfoundland and Labrador, Newfoundland became a Provinces and territories of Canada, province of Canada. * between 1965 and 1979, and between 1980 and 1987. The 1987 constitution abolished the Westminster system. * following the end of British colonial rule in 1960, which resulted in the appointment of a Governor-General and then a President, Nnamdi Azikiwe. The system ended with the military coup of 1966. * between 1948 and 1972, and from 1972 until 1978 when the constitution was remodelled into an Executive presidential system. * following independence in 1948 until the 1962 military coup d'état. * between 1957 and 1960, then 1969 and 1972. * State of Somaliland during its brief independence in 1960 it used the Westminster system with Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal as its first and only Prime Minister. * between 1968 and 1973. * between 1961 and 1962. * between 1961 and 1971. * between 1962 and 1963. * between 1963 and 1964. * between 1964 and 1966. * between 1965 and 1970. * between 1966 and 1980. * between 1890 and 1940, under the Meiji Constitution the Diet of Japan was a bicameral legislature modelled after both the German ''Reichstag (German Empire), Reichstag'' and the Westminster system. Influence from the Westminster system remained in Japan's Constitution of Japan, Postwar Constitution.


See also

* Bill of Rights 1689 * English Civil War * Glorious Revolution * Her Majesty's Government (term), Her Majesty's Government * History of Parliamentarism * Loyal opposition * Magna Carta * Parliamentary system * Parliament in the Making * Parliament of England * Petition of Right * Presidential system *Representation of the People Act


References


Bibliography

* * * ''The English Constitution'', Walter Bagehot, 1876. . . * ''British Cabinet Government'', Simon James, Pub Routledge, 1999. . * ''Prime Minister & Cabinet Government'', Neil MacNaughton, 1999. . *
Westminster Legacies: Democracy and Responsible Government in Asia and the Pacific
', Haig Patapan, John Wanna, Patrick Weller, 2005. .


External links

*
How the Westminster parliamentary system was exported around the world
' University of Cambridge. *

' Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. *
The Twilight of Westminster? Electoral Reform & its Consequences
', Pippa Norris, 2000. *
Westminster in the Caribbean: History, Legacies, Challenges
' University College London. *
What is the Westminster System?
' Parliament of Victoria video. {{DEFAULTSORT:Westminster System Westminster system, Constitution of the United Kingdom Constitution of Canada Constitution of Australia Constitution of New Zealand Political systems