Head Of State Vs. Head Of Government: A Guide

Head Of State Vs. Head Of Government

If you are interested in knowing the difference between the head of state vs. head of government, then you’ve come to the right place! You will understand when and how both words could mean different or the same individual. Most persons are using both terms to indicate the same position, and they are not wrong for that. Nevertheless, there are conditions under which they are not the same thing.

So here’s what you need to know about Head of State and a Head of Government;

The first thing that differentiates both is their functions. The head of state is also the chief public representative. Whether it’s a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth, or other forms of government, it stays the same. The head of state can sign bills and pass them into laws, and controls the entire armed forces of the nation. He or she is also responsible for attending essential functions and exercise political power throughout the region. In the USA, the head of state is the president.

Furthermore, in the parliamentary system of government, the head of government is the premier or Prime Minister. He or she has the power to preside over a cabinet and is chief of the entire executive branch. The head of government also heads the ruling party. A simple illustration of the head of state and head of government is what we have in the country UK. Queen Elizabeth is the head of state, while Boris Johnson is the current head of government.

So that’s it about the Head of State vs. the head of government. However, you can continue reading for more information on the topic.

What The Head Of State Means

Politics is as old as man. It is also responsible for shaping nations and the entire world. When one is elected into a political office, the electorates automatically transfer powers to the said individual. The once ordinary and popular individual becomes respected and now has the authority to issue a command.

There are different political officers and the system of governments across the world. Also, every nation has the right to practice whatever system of government they desire.

What does a head of state mean? Another name for this position is “chief of state. “Plus, the powers conferred on anyone that’s holding this position depends on certain factors. These include separation of power and a country’s form of government. In most cases, the head of the state could only be a ceremonial head. He or she may be a sovereign state’s representative. Like in the United States of America and South Korea that runs a presidential system of government, the president is known as the head of state.

The United Kingdom’s system of government is a monarchy. In this case, the office of the head of state is different from that of the head of government. The queen is not only the head of state but commander-in-chief of the armed forces, while the prime minister is the head of government. In the presidential system of government as practiced in the USA, the president is the head of state and head of government.

Role The Head Of State Plays

Remember, we said the duties or power conferred on a head of state hinges on several factors. It could be the separation of power or the form of government the nation is practicing. The head of state could be a president or monarch, as we have seen in several countries. Here are some of their duties.

1. Role as chief executive:

As the chief executive, the head of state has the power to implement foreign policies. In other words, the president can exercise his or her powers at home or in international affairs. But the power is limited with the help of checks and balances.

Being a chief executive also gives the head of state the power to supervise the activities of the executive arm of his government. He or she also has the power to offer an executive appointment or remove individuals (executives) from political offices too.

The head of state can also task his or her executives to prepare budgets for their respective agencies, presented to congress for proper scrutiny, and to make any adjustments. After that, it’s the head of state (in a presidential system) that signs the budget into law or for agencies whose budgets are in the submitted proposal to start implementation.

2. Legislative facilitator: 

You may be surprised to find some legislative proposals in a congress, which seem to favor the executives. It should occur to you that most of those proposals are sponsored by the executive, particularly the head of state.

The president doesn’t have power over congress. The Ineligibility Clause in the United State’s constitution forbids the president from becoming a congress member while in office. It also prevents the president from introducing any legislative proposal directly. The only way the president can go about this is to play an indirect role. And this act can only yield results if only the ruling party’s members are a majority in the senate and house of representative.

3. The chief of the citizens

It’s the people that get to elect the head of state in a country like the United States of America, not the other way around. So they expect him or her to lead the country to success. The citizens may also demand that the president honor their agitations in most cases.

In the United Kingdom, the head of state is not elected by the people. Being a monarchy, it’s a member of the royal house that can become the next head of state, following the current queen’s demise. And being the chief of the citizen, the head of state represents the citizens.

4. The chief diplomat

One of the head of the state’s primary role is to create foreign policies, taking into account the interest of the citizens, home and abroad. Therefore, whatever he or she instructed must be followed to the latter by citizens of the country, irrespective of their geographical location.

So, what this role simply means is that the president can create foreign policies, work to strengthen the relationship between the country and others, and may decide to disagree or agree to any deal. For instance, President Trump had to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement.

What The Head Of Government Means

The head of government could either be the highest official (as seen in the presidential system of government) or second most senior official. It could be of a federal or sovereign state or self-governing colonies. The head of government has roles that are different from the one performed by the head of state. He’s the prime minister and answers to the head of state, a higher authority!

As earlier said, the head of government is the leader or head of the ruling party. And when it comes to the executive arm of government, he or she is also the chief or head. However, for countries that are running a presidential system of government, as well as absolute monarchies, keep in mind that the head of state and head of government is the same individual.

The Role The Head Of Government Plays

Preside over the cabinet

The prime minister is the one that presides over the cabinet, not the head of state. Let’s consider the UK as an example. You will never find the queen dialoguing with cabinet members in the house. Though she has the power to make recommendations, it’s the prime minister that heads the government and ensures any contribution made by the head of state is looked into.

Appoints and dismiss ministers

The head of the government can recommend ministers to the head of state for n appointment. He or she can also do the same when there’s a need to dismiss a minister. The head of government also acts according to the directives issued by the head of state.

Take political decisions on behalf of the head of state

In a parliamentary system, the queen or king who happens to be the head of the state cannot make any political decision in the open. He or she can make recommendations. Still, it’s the parliamentary members and the head of the government the decisions rests on.

Wrapping It Up

Head of State Vs. Head of Government! It is easy to use both terms interchangeably. No one would blame you for that. Both terms, in most cases, might be referring to the same person. It all depends on the system of government and separation of power the country is operating. So, here you have it, the difference between the two heads. You can check the beginning part of this post for a better understanding of both terms.

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