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7 Key Features of the Parliamentary System of Government

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The parliamentary system, also known as the cabinet system of government, is the system in which the head of government and his or her cabinet ministers are at the same time members of parliament.

Examples of the parliamentary system of government can be found in Britain, Germany, Israel, Japan, Australia, Canada and India.

The features of the parliamentary system of government include the following major ones.

1. A bicephalous executive or dual executive.

Executive power is shared between two individuals:

i)  A monarch (in the case of a constitutional monarchy like Japan) or ceremonial president (in the case of a republic like India): He or she is the head of state and performs purely ceremonial functions such as receiving foreign ambassadors, taking the salute at national commemorative functions etc.

ii)  A prime minister: He or she is the executive head of government and sees to the day-to-day administration of the state.

2. Fusion of powers rather than clear separation of powers:

Both executive and legislative functions are performed by the prime minister and his cabinet ministers.

3. The position of prime minister is not directly or popularly contested and elected.

In the parliamentary system of government, one only assumes the office of Prime Minister by virtue of one being an elected Member of Parliament and leader of the party with majority seats in parliament.

4. The terms of office for both parliament and cabinet are not fixed.

A vote of no confidence can force the executive to resign on any day. This may result in the dissolution of parliament; paving the way for fresh elections before the official expiry date of its tenure.

5. Collective responsibility:

Cabinet ministers are enjoined to stand or fall together.

6. Institutionalized official opposition:

There is an officially recognized shadow cabinet formed by the main opposition party. The shadow cabinet comprises a shadow prime minister and shadow ministers responsible for the various ministries. They are an alternative government in waiting and are expected to put the government on its toes.

7. Dominant prime minister

The prime minister occupies a more dominant position than the head of state and is more visible in national political life.

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