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|Part of the Politics series|
A prime minister, premier or chief of cabinet is the head of the cabinet and the leader of the ministers in the executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary or semi-presidential system. Under those systems, a prime minister is not the head of state, but rather the head of government, serving under either a monarch in a democratic constitutional monarchy or under a president in a republican form of government.
In parliamentary systems fashioned after the Westminster system, the prime minister is the presiding and actual head of government and head/owner of the executive power. In such systems, the head of state or their official representative (e.g., monarch, president, governor-general) usually holds a largely ceremonial position, although often with reserve powers.
In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime minister is the presiding member and chairman of the cabinet. In a minority of systems, notably in semi-presidential systems, a prime minister is the official appointed to manage the civil service and execute the directives of the head of state.
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|Head of state|
Today, the prime minister is often, but not always, a member of the legislature or its lower house, and is expected with other ministers to ensure the passage of bills through the legislature. In some monarchies the monarch may also exercise executive powers (known as the royal prerogative) without the approval of parliament.
As well as being head of government, being prime minister may require holding other roles or posts—the prime minister of the United Kingdom, for example, is also First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service.[note 1] In some cases, prime ministers may choose to hold additional ministerial posts (e.g. when the portfolio is critical to that government's mandate): during the Second World War, Winston Churchill was also Minister of Defence (although there was then no Ministry of Defence). Another example is the Thirty-fourth government of Israel (2015–2019)[update], when Benjamin Netanyahu at one point served as the prime minister and minister of Communications, Foreign Affairs, Regional Cooperation, Economy, Defense and Interior.
The term "prime minister" is attested in 17th Century sources referring to Cardinal Richelieu, after he was named premier ministre to head the French royal council in 1624. The title was used alongside the principal ministre d'État ("chief minister of the state") more as a job description. After 1661, Louis XIV and his descendants refused to allow one of their ministers to be more important than the others, so the term was no longer in use.
In the 18th century in the United Kingdom, members of parliament disparagingly used the title in reference to Sir Robert Walpole (whose official title was First Lord of the Treasury). During the whole of the 18th Century, Britain was involved in a prolonged conflict with France, periodically bursting into all-out war, and Britons took outspoken pride in their "Liberty" as contrasted to the "Tyranny" of French Absolute Monarchy; therefore, being implicitly compared with Richelieu was no compliment to Walpole. Over time, however, the title became honorific[where?] and remains so in the 21st century.
The monarchs of England and the United Kingdom had ministers in whom they placed special trust and who were regarded as the head of the government. Examples were Thomas Cromwell under Henry VIII; William Cecil, Lord Burghley under Elizabeth I; Clarendon under Charles II and Godolphin under Queen Anne. These ministers held a variety of formal posts, but were commonly known as "the minister", the "chief minister", the "first minister" and finally the "prime minister".
The power of these ministers depended entirely on the personal favour of the monarch. Although managing the parliament was among the necessary skills of holding high office, they did not depend on a parliamentary majority for their power. Although there was a cabinet, it was appointed entirely by the monarch, and the monarch usually presided over its meetings.
When the monarch grew tired of a first minister, he or she could be dismissed, or worse: Cromwell was executed and Clarendon driven into exile when they lost favour. Kings sometimes divided power equally between two or more ministers to prevent one minister from becoming too powerful. Late in Anne's reign, for example, the Tory ministers Harley and Viscount Bolingbroke shared power.
In the mid 17th century, after the English Civil War (1642–1651), Parliament strengthened its position relative to the monarch then gained more power through the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and passage of the Bill of Rights in 1689. The monarch could no longer establish any law or impose any tax without its permission and thus the House of Commons became a part of the government. It is at this point that a modern style of prime minister begins to emerge.
A tipping point in the evolution of the prime ministership came with the death of Anne in 1714 and the accession of George I to the throne. George spoke no English, spent much of his time at his home in Hanover, and had neither knowledge of, nor interest in, the details of English government. In these circumstances it was inevitable that the king's first minister would become the de facto head of the government.
From 1721, this was the Whig politician Robert Walpole, who held office for twenty-one years. Walpole chaired cabinet meetings, appointed all the other ministers, dispensed the royal patronage and packed the House of Commons with his supporters. Under Walpole, the doctrine of cabinet solidarity developed. Walpole required that no minister other than himself have private dealings with the king, and also that when the cabinet had agreed on a policy, all ministers must defend it in public, or resign. As a later prime minister, Lord Melbourne, said, "It matters not what we say, gentlemen, so long as we all say the same thing."
Walpole always denied that he was "prime minister", and throughout the 18th century parliamentarians and legal scholars continued to deny that any such position was known to the Constitution. George II and George III made strenuous efforts to reclaim the personal power of the monarch, but the increasing complexity and expense of government meant that a minister who could command the loyalty of the Commons was increasingly necessary. The long tenure of the wartime prime minister William Pitt the Younger (1783–1801), combined with the mental illness of George III, consolidated the power of the post. The title "prime minister" was first referred to on government documents during the administration of Benjamin Disraeli but did not appear in the formal British Order of precedence until 1905.
The prestige of British institutions in the 19th century and the growth of the British Empire saw the British model of cabinet government, headed by a prime minister, widely copied, both in other European countries and in British colonial territories as they developed self-government. In some places alternative titles such as "premier", "chief minister", "first minister of state", "president of the council" or "chancellor" were adopted, but the essentials of the office were the same.
By the late 20th century, the majority of the world's countries had a prime minister or equivalent minister, holding office under either a constitutional monarchy or a ceremonial president. The main exceptions to this system have been the United States and the presidential republics in Latin America modelled on the U.S. system, in which the president directly exercises executive authority.
The post of prime minister may be encountered both in constitutional monarchies (such as Belgium, Denmark, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Malaysia, Morocco, Spain,[note 2] Sweden, Thailand, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom) and in parliamentary republics, in which the head of state is an elected official (such as Finland, the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, India, Indonesia (1945–1959), Ireland, Pakistan, Portugal, Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Turkey (1923–2018)) and Italy). See also "First Minister", "Premier", "Chief Minister", "Chancellor", "Taoiseach", "Minister of State (Statsminister)", "President of the Government", "President of the Council of Ministers" and "Secretary of State": alternative titles usually equivalent in meaning to, or translated as, "prime minister".
This contrasts with the presidential system, in which the president (or equivalent) is both the head of state and the head of the government. In some presidential and all semi-presidential systems, such as those of France, Russia, South Korea or Ukraine, the prime minister is an official generally appointed by the president but usually approved by the legislature and responsible for carrying out the directives of the president and managing the civil service. The premier of the Republic of China (Taiwan) is also appointed by the president, but requires no approval by the legislature.
Appointment of the prime minister of France requires no approval by the parliament either, but the parliament may force the resignation of the government. In these systems, it is possible for the president and the prime minister to be from different political parties if the legislature is controlled by a party different from that of the president. When it arises, such a state of affairs is usually referred to as (political) cohabitation.
In parliamentary systems a prime minister may enter into office by several means.
Most prime ministers in parliamentary systems are not appointed for a specific term in office and in effect may remain in power through a number of elections and parliaments. For example, Margaret Thatcher was only ever appointed prime minister on one occasion, in 1979. She remained continuously in power until 1990, though she used the assembly of each House of Commons after a general election to reshuffle her cabinet.
Some states, however, do have a term of office of the prime minister linked to the period in office of the parliament. Hence the Irish Taoiseach is formally 'renominated' after every general election. (Some constitutional experts have questioned whether this process is actually in keeping with the provisions of the Irish constitution, which appear to suggest that a taoiseach should remain in office, without the requirement of a renomination, unless s/he has clearly lost the general election.) The position of prime minister is normally chosen from the political party that commands majority of seats in the lower house of parliament.
In parliamentary systems, governments are generally required to have the confidence of the lower house of parliament (though a small minority of parliaments, by giving a right to block supply to upper houses, in effect make the cabinet responsible to both houses, though in reality upper houses, even when they have the power, rarely exercise it). Where they lose a vote of confidence, have a motion of no confidence passed against them, or where they lose supply, most constitutional systems require either:
The latter in effect allows the government to appeal the opposition of parliament to the electorate. However, in many jurisdictions a head of state may refuse a parliamentary dissolution, requiring the resignation of the prime minister and his or her government. In most modern parliamentary systems, the prime minister is the person who decides when to request a parliamentary dissolution.
Older constitutions often vest this power in the cabinet. In the United Kingdom, for example, the tradition whereby it is the prime minister who requests a dissolution of parliament dates back to 1918. Prior to then, it was the entire government that made the request. Similarly, though the modern 1937 Irish constitution grants to the Taoiseach the right to make the request, the earlier 1922 Irish Free State Constitution vested the power in the Executive Council (the then name for the Irish cabinet).
In Australia, the Prime Minister is expected to step down if they lose the majority support of their party under a spill motion as have many such as Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull.
The Prime Minister's executive office is usually called the Office of the Prime Minister or Cabinet Office. The U.K.’s Cabinet Office includes the Prime Minister’s Office. Conversely, some Prime Minister's Offices incorporate the role of Cabinet, while Australia’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet joins them at par. In Israel, the Prime Minister's executive office is officially titled the "Prime Minister's Office" in English, but the original Hebrew term can also be translated as the Prime Minister's Ministry. The Prime Minister's Department is also used, as is Cabinet Department.
Wilfried Martens, who served as Prime Minister of Belgium, described his role as follows:
In many cases, though commonly used, "prime minister" is not the official title of the office-holder. In the Russian constitution, the prime minister is titled Chairman of the government. The Irish prime minister is called the Taoiseach (which is rendered into English as prime minister), in Israel the prime minister is Rosh HaMemshalah, meaning "head of the government", and the Spanish prime minister is the President of the Government (Presidente del Gobierno). The head of government of the People's Republic of China is referred to as the Premier of the State Council.
Other common forms include president of the council of ministers (for example in Italy, Presidente del Consiglio dei Ministri), President of the Executive Council, or Minister-President. In the Nordic countries the prime minister is called Statsminister, meaning "Minister of State". In federations, the head of government of a federated entity (such as a Canadian province or Brazilian state) is most commonly known as the premier, chief minister, governor or minister-president.
It is convention in the English language to call nearly all national heads of government "prime minister" (or sometimes the equivalent term "premier"), except in cases where the head of state and head of government are one position (usually a presidency), regardless of the correct title of the head of government as applied in his or her respective country. The few exceptions to the rule are Germany and Austria, whose head of government's title is Federal Chancellor.
Monaco, whose head of government is referred to as the Minister of State; and Vatican City, for which the head of government is titled the Secretary of State. A stand-out case is the president of Iran, who is not actually a head of state, but the head of the government of Iran. He is referred to as "president" in both the Persian and English languages.
In non-Commonwealth countries, the prime minister may be entitled to the style of Excellency like a president. In some Commonwealth countries, prime ministers and former prime ministers are styled Right Honourable due to their position (the prime minister of Canada, for example). In the United Kingdom, the prime minister and former prime ministers are also often styled Right Honourable; however, this is not due to their position as head of government, but a privilege of being current members of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council.
In the UK, where devolved government is in place, the leaders of the Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh Governments are styled First Minister. Between 1921 and 1972, when Northern Ireland had a majority rule Parliament, the head of government was the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. In Bangladesh, the prime minister is called Prodhan Montri, literally meaning "the head of ministers" or "prime minister". In India, the prime minister is called Pradhān Mantrī, literally meaning "the head of ministers" or "prime minister". In Pakistan, the prime minister is referred to as Wazir-e-Azam, meaning "grand vizier".
|Bangladesh||Bengali: প্রধানমন্ত্রী , prodhan montri|
|Canada||English: Prime Minister |
French: Premier ministre
|Faroe Islands||Faroese: Løgmaður|
|Finland||Finnish: Suomen pääministeri|
Swedish: Finlands statsminister
|Greece||Prothypourgós tis Ellinikís Dimokratías|
|Greenland||Greenlandic: Naalakkersuisut siulittaasuat|
|India||Hindi: प्रधान मंत्री, Pradhān Mantrī|
|Israel||Hebrew : רֹאשׁ הַמֶּמְשָׁלָה, Rosh HaMemshala|
|Malta||Prim Ministru ta' Malta|
|Montenegro||Premijer Crne Gore|
|Nepal||Nepali: प्रधानमन्त्री, Pradhān Mantrī|
|Netherlands||Minister-president van Nederland|
|Pakistan||Urdu: وزیر اعظم, Wazīr-ē-Āzam|
|Poland||Prezes Rady Ministrów|
|Romania||Prim-ministrul Guvernului României|
|Russia||Председатель Правительства Российской Федерации, Predsedatel' Pravitel'stva Rossiyskoy Federatsii|
|Singapore||Malay: Perdana Menteri Republik Singapura|
Chinese: 新加坡共和国总理, Xīnjiāpō gònghéguó zǒnglǐ
Tamil: சிங்கப்பூர் குடியரசின் பிரதமர், Ciṅkappūr kuṭiyaraciṉ piratamar
|South Korea||Hangul: 국무총리|
|Spain||Presidente del Gobierno|
|Sri Lanka||Sinhala: ශ්රී ලංකා අග්රාමාත්ය, Śrī Laṃkā agrāmāthya|
Tamil: இலங்கை பிரதமர் Ilaṅkai piratamar
|Thailand||นายกรัฐมนตรี, Nayok Ratthamontri|
|United Kingdom||Prime Minister|
The position, power and status of prime ministers differ depending on the age of the constitution.
Canada has a 'mixed' or hybrid constitution, partly formally codified and partly uncodified. The codified part originally made no reference whatsoever to a prime minister and still gives no parameters of the office. Instead, her or his powers, duties, appointment and termination follow uncodified conventions. The Constitution Act, 1867 only establishes the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, to which all federal ministers (among others) are appointed and with Members[note 3] of which the Monarch or her Governor General normally performs executive government (as Queen- or Governor-in-Council). The Constitution Act, 1982, adds passing reference to the "Prime Minister of Canada" [French: premier ministre du Canada] but as detail of conferences of federal and provincial first ministers.)
India's constitution (1950) lists the powers, functions and duties of the prime minister of India. In India, prime ministerial candidates must be a member of parliament, i.e. of either the Lok Sabha (Lower House) or Rajya Sabha (Upper House). No parliamentary vote takes place on who forms a government.
The United Kingdom's constitution, being uncodified and largely unwritten, makes no mention of a prime minister. Though it had de facto existed for centuries, its first mention in official state documents did not occur until the first decade of the twentieth century. Accordingly, it is often said "not to exist"; indeed there are several instances of parliament declaring this to be the case. The prime minister sits in the cabinet solely by virtue of occupying another office, either First Lord of the Treasury (office in commission) or more rarely Chancellor of the Exchequer (the last of whom was Balfour in 1905).
During the period between the time it is clear that the incumbent government has been defeated at a general election, and the actual swearing-in of the new prime minister by the monarch, governor-general, or president, that person is referred to as the "prime minister-elect" or "prime minister-designate". Neither term is strictly correct from a constitutional point of view, but they have wide acceptance. In a situation in which a ruling party elects or appoints a new leader, the incoming leader will usually be referred as "prime minister-in-waiting". An example or this situation was in 2016 in the United Kingdom when Theresa May was elected leader of the Conservative Party while David Cameron was still prime minister.
The following table groups the list of past and present prime ministers and details information available in those lists.
|Term given by
years or dates
|Afghanistan||1927||-||years||Hasan Akhund (acting)|
|Andorra||1982||-||years||Xavier Espot Zamora|
|Antigua and Barbuda||1981||-||years||Gaston Browne|
|Argentina||1993||yes||dates||Juan Luis Manzur|
|Australia (List)||1901||yes||dates||Anthony Albanese|
|Bahrain||1970||-||years||Crown Prince Salman|
|Bangladesh (List)||1971||yes||dates||Sheikh Hasina|
|Barbados (List)||1953||yes||dates||Mia Mottley|
|Belgium (List)||1831||yes||dates||Alexander De Croo|
|Bermuda||1968||yes||dates||Edward David Burt|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||1945||-||dates||Zoran Tegeltija|
|British Virgin Islands||1967||yes||dates||Natalio Wheatley|
|Brunei||1984||no||dates||Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah|
|Burkina Faso||1971||-||dates||Albert Ouédraogo|
|Canada (List)||1867||yes||dates||Justin Trudeau|
|Cape Verde||1975||yes||dates||Ulisses Correia e Silva|
|Cayman Islands||1992||yes||dates||Wayne Panton|
|Central African Republic||1958||-||dates||Félix Moloua|
|Chad||1978||-||dates||Albert Pahimi Padacké|
|People's Republic of China (List)||1949||-||dates||Li Keqiang|
|Congo (Brazzaville)||1957||yes||dates||Anatole Collinet Makosso|
|Congo (Kinshasa) (List)||1960||yes||dates||Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde|
|Cook Islands||1965||yes||dates||Mark Brown|
|Côte d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast)||1957||yes||dates||Patrick Achi|
|Cuba||1940||-||dates||Manuel Marrero Cruz|
|Northern Cyprus||1983||yes||dates||Ünal Üstel|
|Czech Republic||1993||-||years||Petr Fiala|
|Denmark (List)||1848||-||years||Mette Frederiksen|
|Djibouti||1977||-||dates||Abdoulkader Kamil Mohamed|
|East Timor||2002||yes||dates||Taur Matan Ruak|
|Egypt (List)||1878||-||years||Moustafa Madbouly|
|Equatorial Guinea||1963||-||dates||Francisco Pascual Obama Asue|
|Faroe Islands||1946||-||years||Bárður á Steig Nielsen|
|France (List)||1589||-||years||Élisabeth Borne|
|Gabon||1957||yes||dates||Rose Christiane Raponda|
|The Gambia||1961||-||dates||(Post abolished)|
|Germany (List)||1871/1949||yes||dates||Olaf Scholz|
|Greece (List)||1833||-||dates||Kyriakos Mitsotakis|
|Greenland||1979||-||years||Múte Bourup Egede|
|Guinea-Bissau||1973||-||dates||Nuno Gomes Nabiam|
|Hungary (List)||1848||-||dates||Viktor Orbán|
|India (List)||1947||yes||dates||Narendra Modi|
|Iran (List)||1624||-||years||(Post abolished)|
|Israel (List)||1948||-||years||Naftali Bennett|
|Italy (List)||1861||-||years||Mario Draghi|
|Japan (List)||1885||-||dates||Fumio Kishida|
|Jersey||2005||-||dates||John Le Fondré|
|North Korea||1948||-||years||Kim Tok-hun|
|South Korea (List)||1948||-||years||Han Duck-soo|
|Kuwait||1962||yes||dates||Sheikh Sabah Al-Khalid Al-Sabah|
|Libya||1951||-||dates||Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh|
|Malaysia||1957||yes||years||Ismail Sabri Yaakob|
|Mali||1957||yes||dates||Choguel Kokalla Maïga (interim)|
|Isle of Man||1986||-||years||Alfred Cannan|
|Mauritania||1957||yes||dates||Mohamed Ould Bilal|
|Myanmar (Burma)||1948||yes||dates||Min Aung Hlaing|
|Nepal||1803||yes||dates||Sher Bahadur Deuba|
|Netherlands (List)||1848||yes||dates||Mark Rutte|
|New Zealand (List)||1856||yes||dates||Jacinda Ardern|
|Niue||1974||-||dates||Sir Dalton Tagelagi|
|Norfolk Island||1896||2015||dates||(Post abolished)|
|North Macedonia||1943||yes||dates||Dimitar Kovačevski|
|Norway||1814||yes||years||Jonas Gahr Støre|
|Pakistan (List)||1947||yes||dates||Shehbaz Sharif|
|Papua New Guinea||1975||yes||years||James Marape|
|Poland (List)||1918||-||dates||Mateusz Morawiecki|
|Portugal (List)||1834||yes||dates||António Costa|
|Qatar||1970||-||dates||Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdul Aziz Al Thani|
|Russia (List)||1864/1905||yes||dates||Mikhail Mishustin|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||1960||-||dates||Timothy Harris|
|Saint Lucia||1960||-||dates||Philip Pierre|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||1956||-||dates||Ralph Gonsalves|
|São Tomé and Principe||1974||yes||dates||Jorge Bom Jesus|
|Saudi Arabia||1953||no||dates||Mohammad bin Salman|
|Sierra Leone||1954||yes||dates||Jacob Jusu Saffa|
|Singapore||1959||-||dates||Lee Hsien Loong|
|Sint Maarten||2010||-||dates||Silveria Jacobs|
|Solomon Islands||1949||yes||dates||Manasseh Sogavare|
|Somalia||1949||yes||dates||Hamza Abdi Barre|
|South Africa||1910||-||dates||(Post abolished)|
|South Ossetia||1991||-||dates||Konstantin Dzhussoev|
|Spain (List)||1705||yes||years||Pedro Sánchez|
|Sri Lanka (List)||1948||-||dates||Ranil Wickremesinghe|
|Sweden (List)||1876||yes||years||Magdalena Andersson|
|Taiwan (Republic of China) (List)||1912||-||dates||Su Tseng-chang|
|Thailand (List)||1932||yes||dates||Prayut Chan-o-cha|
|Togo||1956||yes||dates||Victoire Tomegah Dogbé|
|Trinidad and Tobago||1956||-||dates||Keith Rowley|
|Turkey (List)||1920||yes||dates||(Post abolished)|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||1976||yes||dates||Washington Misick|
|Ukraine (List)||1917||-||dates||Denys Shmyhal|
|United Arab Emirates||1971||-||years||Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum|
|United Kingdom (List)||1721||yes||dates||Liz Truss|
|Uruguay||No List (post established 1919)||-||-||(post abolished)|
|Vatican||1644||-||years||Cardinal Pietro Parolin|
|Vietnam||1976||yes||dates||Phạm Minh Chính|
|Yemen||1990||yes||years||Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed|
|Western Sahara||1976||no||years||Mohamed Wali Akeik|
This article needs additional citations for verification. (June 2012)
The key landmark is the Bill of Rights (1689), which established the supremacy of Parliament over the Crown.... The Bill of Rights (1689) then settled the primacy of Parliament over the monarch’s prerogatives, providing for the regular meeting of Parliament, free elections to the Commons, free speech in parliamentary debates, and some basic human rights, most famously freedom from ‘cruel or unusual punishment’.