Head of government
The head of government is the leader of the government or cabinet.
Different titles of Head of government
The title Prime Minister is often used to describe the head of government, though often constitutions use different titles. In addition to Prime Minister, titles used include:
A parliamentary prime minister
In parliamentary systems, government functions along the following lines:
All of these directly impact on the prime ministerial role, often requiring that the Prime Minister play a 'day to day' role on the floor of the House, answering questions and defending 'his' government on the 'floor of the House'. In contrast, prime ministers in semi-presidential systems may be required to play less of a role in the functioning of parliament.
Appointing the prime minister
In some states, a head of government is elected by parliament. In many, they are commissioned to form a government by the head of state, on the basis of the strength of party support in the lower house. Many parliamentary systems require ministers to serve in parliament, while others ban ministers from sitting in parliament, they resigning on becoming ministers.
Removing the prime minister
Prime ministers are typically removed from power in a parliamentary system by
First among equals or dominating the cabinet?
Constitutions differ in how many powers they give to prime ministership; indeed some older constitutions (for example, Australia's 1900 text, and Belgium's 1830 text) never mentioned the office of prime minister at all, the office becoming a de facto reality without formal constitutional status. Some constitutions make a prime minister primus inter pares (first among equals) and that remains the practical reality in places like Finland and Belgium. Other states however, make their prime minister a central and dominant figure within the cabinet system; Ireland's Taoiseach, for example, alone can decide when to seek a parliamentary dissolution, in contrast to other countries where this is a cabinet decision, with the Prime Minister just one member voting on the suggestion.) Under the UK's constitution, the Prime Minister's role has evolved, based often on the personal appeal and strength of character, as contrasted between, for example, Winston Churchill as against Clement Attlee, Margaret Thatcher as against John Major.
In a number of states the allegation has been made that the increased personalisation of leadership, a product in part on media coverage of politics that focuses on the leader and his or her mandate, rather than on parliament, and also on the increasing centralisation of power in the hands of the prime minister, has led to accusations of prime ministers becoming themselves semi-presidential figures. Such allegations have been made against two recent British prime ministers, Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. It was made against then Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau and against the then Chancellor of West Germany and later Germany Helmut Kohl.