prime minister

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prime minister



chief member of the cabinetcabinet,
group of advisers to the head of the state who themselves are usually the heads of the administrative government departments. The nature of the cabinet differs widely in various countries.
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 in a parliamentary system of government. The prime minister is head of the government, in contrast with the head of state, who may be a constitutional monarch, as in Great Britain, or an elected official, as in the case of the president of India. Procedures governing the selection of the prime minister vary from country to country, but under the system that has evolved in Great Britain (which has provided the model for Commonwealth countries) he is usually the leader of the majority party or coalition in Parliament and must by convention be a member of the lower house. The prime minister appoints the other cabinet ministers, makes and coordinates the policy of the government, controls the administration, and dispenses patronage. In major policy areas he must have the support of the legislature; otherwise he and his cabinet are customarily expected either to resign or to dissolve the legislature and call new elections. An individual cabinet minister who is unable to support the prime minister is also expected to resign. In France (under the Fifth Republic) and in a few other countries with parliamentary governments, the powers of the prime minister are considerably less than those described above; most of the executive authority is exercised by the president, while the prime minister plays a comparatively minor role. In the United States the president combines the functions of head of government and head of state.


See B. Carter, The Office of Prime Minister (1956); W. I. Jennings, Cabinet Government (3d ed. 1959); F. W. G. Benemy, The Elected Monarch (1965); S. E. Finer, Comparative Government (1971).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Prime Minister


the head of the government in a number of contemporary bourgeois countries; he is generally appointed by the head of state. The prime minister appoints and dismisses ministers, directs the daily activities of the government, and heads the administrative apparatus. As a rule, the prime minister is the head of either the majority party or the party coalition in the parliament. He is also the head of the parliamentary faction of the majority. In some countries, for example, the Federal Republic of Germany, the head of the government is called the chancellor.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

prime minister

1. the head of a parliamentary government
2. the chief minister of a sovereign or a state
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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