Head of state
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A head of state (or chief of state) is the public persona who officially embodies a state in its unity and legitimacy. Depending on the country's form of government and separation of powers, the head of state may be a ceremonial figurehead or concurrently the head of government and more (such as the president of the United States, who is also commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces).
Former French president Charles de Gaulle, while developing the current Constitution of France (1958), said that the head of state should embody l'esprit de la nation ("the spirit of the nation").
This section needs additional citations for verification. (November 2012))
Some academic writers discuss
An independent nation state normally has a head of state, and determines the extent of its head's executive powers of government or formal representational functions. In terms of protocol: the head of a sovereign, independent state is usually identified as the person who, according to that state's constitution, is the reigning monarch, in the case of a monarchy; or the president, in the case of a republic.
Among the state constitutions (fundamental laws) that establish different political systems, four major types of heads of state can be distinguished:
- The parliamentary system, with two subset models;
- The standard model, in which the head of state, in theory, possesses key executive powers, but such power is exercised on the binding advice of a head of government (e.g. United Kingdom, India, Germany).
- The non-executive model, in which the head of state has either none or very limited executive powers, and mainly has a ceremonial and symbolic role (e.g. Sweden, Japan, Israel).
- The presidential system, in which the head of state is also the head of government and has all executive powers (e.g. United States, Indonesia, South Korea).
In a federal constituent or a dependent territory, the same role is fulfilled by the holder of an office corresponding to that of a head of state. For example, in each
Republics with an executive president elected by a parliament
Parliamentary constitutional monarchies in which the monarch usually does not personally exercise power
Presidential republics, one-party states, and other forms of government
In parliamentary constitutional monarchies, the legitimacy of the unelected head of state typically derives from the tacit approval of the people via the elected representatives. Accordingly, at the time of the Glorious Revolution, the English parliament acted of its own authority to name a new king and queen (the joint monarchs Mary II and William III); likewise, Edward VIII's abdication required the approval of each of the six independent realms of which he was monarch. In monarchies with a written constitution, the position of monarch is a creature of the constitution and could quite properly be abolished through a democratic procedure of constitutional amendment, although there are often significant procedural hurdles imposed on such a procedure (as in the Constitution of Spain).
In republics with a parliamentary system (such as India, Germany, Austria, Italy and Israel), the head of state is usually titled president and the principal functions of such presidents are mainly ceremonial and symbolic, as opposed to the presidents in a presidential or semi-presidential system.
In reality, numerous variants exist to the position of a head of state within a parliamentary system. The older the constitution, the more constitutional leeway tends to exist for a head of state to exercise greater powers over government, as many older parliamentary system constitutions in fact give heads of state powers and functions akin to presidential or semi-presidential systems, in some cases without containing reference to modern democratic principles of accountability to parliament or even to modern governmental offices. Usually, the king had the power of declaring war without previous consent of the parliament.
For example, under the 1848 constitution of the Kingdom of Sardinia, and then the Kingdom of Italy, the Statuto Albertino—the parliamentary approval to the government appointed by the king—was customary, but not required by law. So, Italy had a de facto parliamentary system, but a de jure "presidential" system.
Examples of heads of state in parliamentary systems using greater powers than usual, either because of ambiguous constitutions or unprecedented national emergencies, include the decision by King Leopold III of the Belgians to surrender on behalf of his state to the invading German army in 1940, against the will of his government. Judging that his responsibility to the nation by virtue of his coronation oath required him to act, he believed that his government's decision to fight rather than surrender was mistaken and would damage Belgium. (Leopold's decision proved highly controversial. After World War II, Belgium voted in a referendum to allow him to resume his monarchical powers and duties, but because of the ongoing controversy he ultimately abdicated.) The Belgian constitutional crisis in 1990, when the head of state refused to sign into law a bill permitting abortion, was resolved by the cabinet assuming the power to promulgate the law while he was treated as "unable to reign" for twenty-four hours.
These officials are excluded completely from the executive: they do not possess even theoretical executive powers or any role, even formal, within the government. Hence their states' governments are not referred to by the traditional parliamentary model head of state
The Constitution of Japan (日本国憲法, Nihonkoku-Kenpō) was drawn up under the Allied occupation that followed World War II and was intended to replace the previous militaristic and quasi-absolute monarchy system with a form of liberal democracy parliamentary system. The constitution explicitly vests all executive power in the Cabinet, who is chaired by the prime minister (articles 65 and 66) and responsible to the Diet (articles 67 and 69). The emperor is defined in the constitution as "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people" (article 1), and is generally recognised throughout the world as the Japanese head of state. Although the emperor formally appoints the prime minister to office, article 6 of the constitution requires him to appoint the candidate "as designated by the Diet", without any right to decline appointment. He is a ceremonial figurehead with no independent discretionary powers related to the governance of Japan.
Since the passage in
In contrast, the only contact the
The most extreme non-executive republican head of state is the president of Israel, which holds no reserve powers whatsoever. The least ceremonial powers held by the president are to provide a mandate to attempt to form a government, to approve the dissolution of the Knesset made by the prime minister, and to pardon criminals or to commute their sentence.
Some parliamentary republics (like South Africa, Botswana and Kiribati) have fused the roles of the head of state with the head of government (like in a presidential system), while having the sole executive officer, often called a president, being dependent on the Parliament's confidence to rule (like in a parliamentary system). While also being the leading symbol of the nation, the president in this system acts mostly as a prime minister since the incumbent must be a member of the legislature at the time of the election, answer question sessions in Parliament, avoid motions of no confidence, etc.
Semi-presidential systems combine features of presidential and parliamentary systems, notably (in the president-parliamentary subtype) a requirement that the government be answerable to both the president and the legislature. The
Other countries evolve into something akin to a semi-presidential system or indeed a full presidential system.
Note: The head of state in a "presidential" system may not actually hold the title of "president" - the name of the system refers to any head of state who actually governs and is not directly dependent on the legislature to remain in office.
Some constitutions or fundamental laws provide for a head of state who is not only in theory but in practice chief executive, operating separately from, and independent from, the legislature. This system is known as a "presidential system" and sometimes called the "imperial model", because the executive officials of the government are answerable solely and exclusively to a presiding, acting head of state, and is selected by and on occasion dismissed by the head of state without reference to the legislature. It is notable that some presidential systems, while not providing for collective executive accountability to the legislature, may require legislative approval for individuals prior to their assumption of cabinet office and empower the legislature to remove a president from office (for example, in the United States of America). In this case the debate centers on confirming them into office, not removing them from office, and does not involve the power to reject or approve proposed cabinet members en bloc, so accountability does not operate in the same sense understood as a parliamentary system.
In the 1870s in the United States, in the aftermath of the
In certain states under
This may even lead to an institutional variability, as in
Complications with categorisation
While clear categories do exist, it is sometimes difficult to choose which category some individual heads of state belong to. In reality, the category to which each head of state belongs is assessed not by theory but by practice.
Constitutional change in
Another complication exists with South Africa, in which the president is in fact elected by the National Assembly (legislature) and is thus similar, in principle, to a head of government in a parliamentary system but is also, in addition, recognised as the head of state. The offices of president of Nauru and president of Botswana are similar in this respect to the South African presidency.
Panama, during the military dictatorships of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega, was nominally a presidential republic. However, the elected civilian presidents were effectively figureheads with real political power being exercised by the chief of the Panamanian Defense Forces.
Historically, at the time of the
This section relies excessively on references to primary sources. (October 2019))
Head of state is the highest-ranking constitutional position in a sovereign state. A head of state has some or all of the roles listed below, often depending on the constitutional category (above), and does not necessarily regularly exercise the most power or influence of governance. There is usually a formal public ceremony when a person becomes head of state, or some time after. This may be the swearing in at the inauguration of a president of a republic, or the coronation of a monarch.
One of the most important roles of the modern head of state is being a living national symbol of the state; in hereditary monarchies this extends to the monarch being a symbol of the unbroken continuity of the state. For instance, the Canadian monarch is described by the government as being the personification of the Canadian state and is described by the Department of Canadian Heritage as the "personal symbol of allegiance, unity and authority for all Canadians".
In many countries, official
Other common representations are on coins, postage and other stamps and banknotes, sometimes by no more than a mention or signature; and public places, streets, monuments and institutions such as schools are named for current or previous heads of state. In monarchies (e.g., Belgium) there can even be a practice to attribute the adjective "royal" on demand based on existence for a given number of years. However, such political techniques can also be used by leaders without the formal rank of head of state, even party - and other revolutionary leaders without formal state mandate.
Heads of state often greet important foreign visitors, particularly visiting heads of state. They assume a host role during a
At home, heads of state are expected to render lustre to various occasions by their presence, such as by attending artistic or sports performances or competitions (often in a theatrical honour box, on a platform, on the front row, at the honours table), expositions,
The Olympic Charter (rule 55.3) of the International Olympic Committee states that the Olympic summer and winter games shall be opened by the head of state of the host nation, by uttering a single formulaic phrase as determined by the charter.
As such invitations may be very numerous, such duties are often in part
For non-executive heads of state there is often a degree of censorship by the politically responsible government (such as the
Below follows a list of examples from different countries of general provisions in law, which either designate an office as head of state or define its general purpose.
- Example 1 (parliamentary monarchy): Section 56 (1) of the Spanish Constitution of 1978states:
- The King is the Head of State, the symbol of its unity and permanence. He arbitrates and moderates the regular functioning of the institutions, assumes the highest representation of the Spanish State in international relations, especially with the nations of its historical community, and exercises the functions expressly conferred on him by the Constitution and the laws.
- Example 2 (parliamentary absentee monarchy): Article 2 of the New Zealand Constitution Act 1986 states:
- (1) The Sovereign in right of New Zealand is the head of State of New Zealand, and shall be known by the royal style and titles proclaimed from time to time.
- (2) The Governor-General appointed by the Sovereign is the Sovereign's representative in New Zealand.
- Example 3 (parliamentary non-executive monarchy): Article 1 of the Constitution of Japan states:
- Example 4 (parliamentary republic): Title II, Article 87 of the Constitution of Italy states:
- The President of the Republic is the Head of the State and represents national unity.
- Example 5 (parliamentary republic): Article 67 of the Iraqi constitution of 2005 states:
- The President of the Republic is the Head of the State and a symbol of the unity of the country and represents the sovereignty of the country. He shall guarantee the commitment to the Constitution and the preservation of Iraq's independence, sovereignty, unity, and the safety of its territories, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
- Example 6 (semi-presidential republic): Title II, Chapter I, Article 120 of the Constitution of Portugal states:
- The ex officio Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
- Example 7 (presidential republic): Chapter IV, Section 1, Article 66 of the Constitution of the Republic of Koreastates:
- Example 8 (semi-presidential republic): Chapter VI, Article 77 of the Constitution of Lithuania states:
- The President of the Republic shall be Head of State.
- He shall represent the State of Lithuania and shall perform everything with which he is charged by the Constitution and laws.
- Example 9 (semi-presidential republic): Chapter 4, Article 80, Section 1-2 of the Constitution of Russia states:
- 1. The President of the Russian Federationshall be the Head of State.
- 2. The President of the Russian Federation shall be the guarantor of the Constitution of the Russian Federation and of human and civil rights and freedoms. In accordance with the procedure established by the Constitution of the Russian Federation, he (she) shall adopt measures to protect the sovereignty of the Russian Federation, its independence and State integrity, and shall ensure the coordinated functioning and interaction of State government bodies.
- 1. The
- Example 10 (presidential republic): Section 87 (Second Division, Chapter 1) of the Constitution of Argentina provides that:
- The Executive Power of the Nation shall be vested in a citizen with the title of "President of the Argentine Nation".
- The Executive Power of the Nation shall be vested in a citizen with the title of "
In the majority of states, whether republics or monarchies,
- Example 1 (parliamentary monarchy): According to Section 12 of the Constitution of Denmark 1953:
- Example 2 (parliamentary absentee monarchy): Under Chapter II, Section 61 of the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act1900:
- The executive power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Queen and is exercisable by the Governor-General as the Queen's representative, and extends to the execution and maintenance of this Constitution, and of the laws of the Commonwealth.
- Example 3 (parliamentary republic): According to Article 26 (2) of the 1975 Constitution of Greece:
- The executive power shall be exercised by the President of the Republic and the Government.
- Example 4 (parliamentary republic): According to Article 53 (1) of the Constitution of India:
- Example 5 (semi-presidential republic): Under Chapter 4, Article 80, Section 3 of the Constitution of Russia:
- The President of the Russian Federation shall, in accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation and federal laws, determine the basic objectives of the internal and foreign policy of the State.
- Example 6 (presidential republic): Title IV, Chapter II, Section I, Article 76 of the Constitution of Brazil:
- The Executive Power is exercised by the President of the Republic, assisted by the Ministers of State.
- Example 7 (presidential republic): Article 2, Section 1 of the United States Constitutionstates:
- The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.
The few exceptions where the head of state is not even the nominal chief executive - and where supreme executive authority is according to the constitution explicitly vested in a cabinet - include the Czech Republic, Ireland, Israel, Japan and Sweden.
Appointment of senior officials
The head of state usually appoints most or all the key officials in the government, including the
In practice, these decisions are often a formality. The last time the
In presidential systems, such as that of the United States, appointments are nominated by the president's sole discretion, but this nomination is often subject to confirmation by the legislature; and specifically in the US, the Senate has to approve senior executive branch and judicial appointments by a simple majority vote.
The head of state may also dismiss office-holders. There are many variants on how this can be done. For example, members of the Irish Cabinet are dismissed by the president on the advice of the taoiseach; in other instances, the head of state may be able to dismiss an office holder unilaterally; other heads of state, or their representatives, have the theoretical power to dismiss any office-holder, while it is exceptionally rarely used. In France, while the president cannot force the prime minister to tender the resignation of the government, he can, in practice, request it if the prime minister is from his own majority. In presidential systems, the president often has the power to fire ministers at his sole discretion. In the United States, the unwritten convention calls for the heads of the executive departments to resign on their own initiative when called to do so.
- Example 1 (parliamentary monarchy): Article 96 of the Constitution of Belgium:
- The House of Representatives, by an absolute majority of its members, adopts a motion of no confidence proposing a successor to the prime minister for appointment by the King or proposes a successor to the prime minister for appointment by the King within three days of the rejection of a motion of confidence. The King appoints the proposed successor as prime minister, who takes office when the new Federal Government is sworn in.
- Example 2 (parliamentary non-executive republic): Article 13.1.1 of the Constitution of Ireland:
- The President shall, on the nomination of Dáil Éireann, appoint the Taoiseach.
- Example 3 (semi-presidential republic): Chapter 4, Section 2 of the Constitution of the Republic of Koreastates:
- The National Assembly.
- Example 4 (presidential republic): Article 84 of the Constitution of Brazil:
- The President of the Republic shall have the exclusive power to:
- I - appoint and dismiss the Ministers of State:
- XIII -...appoint the commanders of Navy, Army and Air Force, to promote general officers and to appoint them to the offices held exclusively by them;
- XIV - appoint, after approval by the Attorney-General of the Republic, the President and the Directors of the Central Bankand other civil servants, when established by law;
- XV - appoint, with due regard for the provisions of article 73, the Justices of the Federal Court of Accounts;
- XVI - appoint judges in the events established by this Constitution and the Advocate-General of the Union;
- XVII - appoint members of the Council of the Republic, in accordance with article 89, VII
- XXV - fill and abolish federal government positions, as set forth by law.
- The President of the Republic shall have the exclusive power to:
Some countries have alternative provisions for senior appointments: In
Although many constitutions, particularly from the 19th century and earlier, make no explicit mention of a head of state in the generic sense of several present day international treaties, the officeholders corresponding to this position are recognised as such by other countries. In a monarchy, the monarch is generally understood to be the head of state. The
However, there are provisions in the Vienna Convention that a diplomatic agent of lesser rank, such as a
The head of state is often designated the
- Example 1 (parliamentary monarchy): Article 8 of the Constitution of the Principality of Liechtensteinstates:
- 1) The Reigning Prince shall represent the State in all its relations with foreign countries, without prejudice to the requisite participation of the responsible Government.
- 2) Treaties by which territory of the State would be ceded, State property alienated, sovereign rights or prerogatives of the State affected, a new burden imposed on the Principality or its citizens, or an obligation assumed that would limit the rights of the citizens of Liechtenstein shall require the assent of Parliament to attain legal force.
- 1) The
- Example 2 (parliamentary republic): Article 59 (1) of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germanystates:
- The Federal President shall represent the Federation in its international relations. He shall conclude treaties with foreign states on behalf of the Federation. He shall accredit and receive envoys..
- Example 3 (semi-presidential republic): Title II, Article 14 of the French Constitution of 1958states:
- The President of the Republic shall accredit ambassadors and envoys extraordinary to foreign powers; foreign ambassadors and envoys extraordinary shall be accredited to him.
- Example 4 (semi-presidential republic): Chapter 4, Article 86, Section 4 of the Constitution of Russia states:
- The President of the Russian Federation:
- a) shall direct the foreign policy of the Russian Federation;
- b) shall hold negotiations and sign international treaties of the Russian Federation;
- c) shall sign instruments of ratification;
- d) shall receive letters of credence and letters of recall of diplomatic representatives accredited to his (her) office.
- Example 5 (single party republic): Section 2, Article 81 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China states:
- The President of the People's Republic of China receives foreign diplomatic representatives on behalf of the People's Republic of China and, in pursuance of decisions of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, appoints and recalls plenipotentiary representatives abroad, and ratifies and abrogates treaties and important agreements concluded with foreign states.
In Canada, these head of state powers belong to the monarch as part of the royal prerogative, but the Governor General has been permitted to exercise them since 1947 and has done so since the 1970s.
A head of state is often, by virtue of holding the highest executive powers, explicitly designated as the
In a constitutional monarchy or non-executive presidency, the head of state may de jure hold ultimate authority over the armed forces but will only normally, as per either written law or unwritten convention, exercise their authority on the advice of their responsible ministers: meaning that the de facto ultimate decision making on military manoeuvres is made elsewhere. The head of state will, regardless of actual authority, perform ceremonial duties related to the country's armed forces, and will sometimes appear in military uniform for these purposes; particularly in monarchies where also the monarch's consort and other members of a royal family may also appear in military garb. This is generally the only time a head of state of a stable, democratic country will appear dressed in such a manner, as statesmen and public are eager to assert the primacy of (civilian, elected) politics over the armed forces.
- Example 1 (parliamentary monarchy): Article III, Section 15 of the Constitution Act, 1867, a part of the Constitution of Canada, states:
- The Command-in-Chief of the Land and Naval Militia, and of all Naval and Military Forces, of and in Canada, is hereby declared to continue to be vested in the Queen.
- Example 2 (parliamentary monarchy): Article 25 of the Constitution of Norway states:
- The King is Commander-in-Chief of the land and naval forces of the Realm. These forces may not be increased or reduced without the consent of the Storting. They may not be transferred to the service of foreign powers, nor may the military forces of any foreign power, except auxiliary forces assisting against hostile attack, be brought into the Realm without the consent of the Storting.
- The territorial army and the other troops which cannot be classed as troops of the line must never, without the consent of the Storting, be employed outside the borders of the Realm.
- Example 3 (parliamentary republic): Chapter II, Article 87, 4th section of the Constitution of Italy states:
- The President is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, shall preside over the Supreme Council of Defense established by law, and shall make declarations of war as have been agreed by Parliament of Italy.
- Example 4 (semi-presidential republic): Title II, Article 15 of the French Constitution of 1958states:
- The President of the Republic shall be Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He shall preside over the higher national defence councils and committees.
- Example 5 (semi-presidential republic): According to Chapter 4, Article 87, Section 1 of the Constitution of Russia:
- The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
- Example 6 (presidential republic): Article II, Section 2 of the United States Constitutionstates:
- The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States.
- Example 7 (executive monarchy): Article 65 of the Constitution of Qatar provides that:
- The Emir is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He shall supervise the same with the assistance of Defence Council under his direct authority. The said Council shall be constituted by an Emiri Resolution, which will also determine the functions thereof.
Some countries with a parliamentary system designate officials other than the head of state with command-in-chief powers.
- In State of Defence is invoked (article 115b): something which has never happened so far.
- In chief of general staff who holds the highest level of command within the military.
The armed forces of the Communist states are under the absolute control of the Communist party.
- In China, the command-in-chief of the People's Liberation Army is the Chairman of the Central Military Commission, but not the President of China, however, in practice, these offices are held by the same person, who is also General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
It is usual that the head of state, particularly in parliamentary systems as part of the symbolic role, is the one who opens the annual sessions of the legislature, e.g. the annual
Most countries require that all
- Example 1 (non-executive parliamentary monarchy): Chapter 1, Article 4 of the Swedish Riksdag Actprovides that:
- The formal opening of a Riksdag session takes place at a special meeting of the Chamber held no later than the third day of the session. At this meeting, the Head of State declares the session open at the invitation of the Speaker. If the Head of State is unable to attend, the Speaker declares the session open.
- The formal opening of a
- Example 2 (parliamentary monarchy): Article 9 of the Constitution of the Principality of Liechtensteinprovides that:
- Every law shall require the sanction of the Reigning Prince to attain legal force.
- Every law shall require the sanction of the
- Example 3 (parliamentary republic): Section 11.a.1. of the Basic Laws of Israel states:
- The President of the State shall sign every Law, other than a Law relating to its powers.
- Example 4 (semi-presidential republic): According to Chapter 4, Article 84 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation:
- The President of the Russian Federation:
- a) shall announce elections to the State Duma in accordance with the Constitution of the Russian Federation and federal law;
- c) shall announce referendums in accordance with the procedure established by federal constitutional law;
- d) shall submit draft laws to the State Duma;
- e) shall sign and promulgate federal laws;
- f) shall address the Federal Assembly with annual messages on the situation in the country and on the basic objectives of the internal and foreign policy of the State.
- Example 5 (presidential republic): Article 1, Section 7 of the United States Constitutionstates:
- Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approves he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated... 
- Example 6 (presidential republic): Article 84 of the Brazilian Constitutionprovides that:
- The President of the Republic shall have the exclusive power to:
- III – start the legislative procedure, in the manner and in the cases set forth in this Constitution;
- IV - sanction, promulgate and order the publication of laws, as well as to issue decrees and regulations for the true enforcement thereof;
- V - veto bills, wholly or in part;
- XI - upon the opening of the legislative session, send a government message and plan to the National Congress, describing the state of the nation and requesting the actions he deems necessary;
- XXIII - submit to the National Congress the pluriannual plan, the bill of budgetary directives and the budget proposals set forth in this Constitution;
- XXIV - render, each year, accounts to the National Congress concerning the previous fiscal year, within sixty days of the opening of the legislative session.
- The President of the Republic shall have the exclusive power to:
- Example 7 (ruling monarchy): Article 106 of the Constitution of Qatar states:
- 1. Any draft law passed by the Council shall be referred to the Emir for ratification.
- 2. If the Emir, declines to approve the draft law, he shall return it a long with the reasons for such declination to the Council within a period of three months from the date of referral.
- 3. In the event that a draft law is returned to the Council within the period specified in the preceding paragraph and the Council passes the same once more with a two-thirds majority of all its Members, the Emir shall ratify and promulgate it. The Emir may in compelling circumstances order the suspension of this law for the period that he deems necessary to serve the higher interests of the country. If, however, the draft law is not passed by a two-thirds majority, it shall not be reconsidered within the same term of session.
In some parliamentary systems, the head of state retains certain discretionary powers in relation to bills to be exercised. They may have authority to veto a bill until the houses of the legislature have reconsidered it, and approved it a second time; reserve a bill to be signed later, or suspend it indefinitely (generally in states with royal prerogative; this power is rarely used); refer a bill to the courts to test its constitutionality; refer a bill to the people in a referendum.
If the head of state also serves as the chief executive, the head of state can politically control the necessary executive measures without which a proclaimed law can remain dead letter, sometimes for years or even forever.
Summoning and dissolving the legislature
A head of state is often empowered to summon and dissolve the country's
- Example 1 (parliamentary non-executive republic): Article 13.2.2. of the Constitution of Ireland states:
- The President may in absolute discretion refuse to dissolve Dáil Éireann on the advice of a Taoiseach who has ceased to retain the support of a majority in Dáil Éireann.
- Example 2 (semi-presidential republic): Title II, Article 12, first sentence of the French Constitution of 1958states:
- The National Assembly dissolved.
- Example 3 (semi-presidential republic): Chapter 4, article 84 of the Constitution of the Russian Federationprovides:
- The President of the Russian Federation:
- b) shall dissolve the State Duma in the cases and in accordance with the procedure provided for by the Constitution of the Russian Federation;
Granting titles and honours
- Example 1 (parliamentary monarchy): Article 113 of the Constitution of Belgium states:
- The King may confer titles of nobility, without ever having the power to attach privileges to them.
- Example 2 (parliamentary monarchy): Article 23 of the Constitution of Norway states:
- The Council of State or the State Secretaries.
No personal, or mixed, hereditary privileges may henceforth be granted to anyone.
- Example 3 (parliamentary republic): Title II, Article 87, 8th section of the Constitution of Italy states:
- The honorary distinctions of the Republic.
- Example 1 (parliamentary non-executive monarchy): Chapter 5, Article 8 of the Swedish Instrument of Government of 1974states:
- The King or Queen who is Head of State cannot be prosecuted for his or her actions. Nor can a Regent be prosecuted for his or her actions as Head of State.
- Example 2 (parliamentary monarchy): Article 5 of the Constitution of Norway states:
- The Council.
- Example 3 (parliamentary republic): Chapter 3, Article 65 of the Constitution of the Czech Republic states:
- (1) President of the Republic may not be detained, subjected to criminal prosecution or prosecuted for offence or other administrative delict.
- (2) President of the Republic may be prosecuted for high treason at the Senate'ssuit. The punishment may be the loss of his presidential office and of his eligibility to regain it.
- (3) Criminal prosecution for criminal offences committed by the President of the Republic while executing his office shall be ruled out forever.
- Example 4 (semi-presidential republic): Title II, Chapter I, Article 130 of the Constitution of Portugal states:
- 1. The Supreme Court of Justicefor crimes committed in the exercise of his functions.
- 2. Proceedings may only be initiated by the Assembly of the Republic, upon a motion subscribed by one fifth and a decision passed by a two-thirds majority of all the Members of the Assembly of the Republic in full exercise of their office.
- 3. Conviction implies removal from office and disqualification from re-election.
- 4. For crimes that are not committed in the exercise of his functions, the President of the Republic answers before the common courts, once his term of office has ended.
- 1. The
- Example 5 (executive monarchy): Article 64 of the Constitution of Qatar:
- Example 1 (semi-presidential republic): Title II, Article 16 of the French Constitution of 1958states:
- Where the institutions of the Republic, the independence of the Nation, the integrity of its territory or the fulfilment of its international commitments are under serious and immediate threat, and where the proper functioning of the constitutional public authorities is interrupted, the President of the Senate, sixty Members of the National Assembly or sixty Senators, so as to decide if the conditions laid down in paragraph one still apply. The Council shall make its decision publicly as soon as possible. It shall, as of right, carry out such an examination and shall make its decision in the same manner after sixty days of the exercise of emergency powers or at any moment thereafter.
- Where the institutions of the Republic, the independence of the Nation, the integrity of its territory or the fulfilment of its international commitments are under serious and immediate threat, and where the proper functioning of the constitutional public authorities is interrupted, the
- Example 2 (executive monarchy): Articles 69 & 70 of the Constitution of Qatar:
- Article 69
- The Martial Laws in the country in the event of exceptional cases specified by the law; and in such cases, he may take all urgent necessary measures to counter any threat that undermine the safety of the State, the integrity of its territories or the security of its people and interests or obstruct the organs of the State from performing their duties. However, the decree must specify the nature of such exceptional cases for which the martial laws have been declared and clarify the measures taken to address this situation. Al-Shoura Councilshall be notified of this decree within the fifteen days following its issue; and in the event that the Council is not in session for any reason whatsoever, the Council shall be notified of the decree at its first convening. Martial laws shall be declared for a limited period and the same shall not be extended unless approved by Al-Shoura Council.
- Article 70
- The Emir may, in the event of exceptional cases that require measures of utmost urgency which necessitate the issue of special laws and in case that Al-Shoura Council is not in session, issue pertinent decrees that have the power of law. Such decree-laws shall be submitted to Al-Shoura Council at its first meeting; and the Council may within a maximum period of forty days from the date of submission and with a two-thirds majority of its Members reject any of these decree-laws or request amendment thereof to be effected within a specified period of time; such decree-laws shall cease to have the power of law from the date of their rejection by the Council or where the period for effecting the amendments have expired.
- Article 69
Right of pardon
- Example 1 (parliamentary monarchy): Section 24 of the Constitution of Denmark states:
- The King can grant pardons and amnesties. He may only pardon Ministers convicted by the Court of Impeachment with the consent of Parliament.
- Example 2 (parliamentary republic): According to Chapter V, Article 60(2) of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany:
- He [The President] shall exercise the power to pardon individual offenders on behalf of the Federation.
- Example 3 (semi-presidential republic): Title II, Article 17 of the French Constitution of 1958states:
- The President of the Republic is vested with the power to grant individual pardons.
- Example 4 (presidential republic): Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution of the United States provides that:
- ...and he [The President] shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
- Example 5 (presidential parliamentary republic): Part XI, Article 80 of the Constitution of Nauru:
- The President may-
- (a) grant a pardon, either free or subject to lawful conditions, to a person convicted of an offence;
- (b) grant to a person a respite, either indefinite or for a specified period, of the execution of a punishment imposed on that person for an offence;
- (c) substitute a less severe form of punishment for any punishment imposed on a person for an offence; or
- (d) remit the whole or a part of a punishment imposed on a person for an offence or of a penalty or forfeiture on account of an offence.
- The President may-
In 1959, when former
In 1959 after the resignation of
There are also a few nations in which the exact title and definition of the office of head of state have been vague. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, following the downfall of Chinese President Liu Shaoqi, no successor was named, so the duties of the head of state were transferred collectively to the Vice Presidents Soong Ching-ling and Dong Biwu, then to the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, but Chairman Mao Zedong was still the paramount leader. This situation was later changed: the President of the People's Republic of China is now the head of state. Although the presidency is a largely ceremonial office with limited power, the symbolic role of a head of state is now generally performed by Xi Jinping, who is also General Secretary of the Communist Party (Communist Party leader) and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (Supreme Military Command), making him the most powerful person in China.
In North Korea, the late
There is debate as to whether Samoa was an elective monarchy or an aristocratic republic, given the comparative ambiguity of the title O le Ao o le Malo and the nature of the head of state's office.
In some states the office of head of state is not expressed in a specific title reflecting that role, but constitutionally awarded to a post of another formal nature. Colonel
Sometimes a head of state assumes office as a state becomes legal and political reality, before a formal title for the highest office is determined; thus in the since 1 January 1960 independent republic
In certain cases a special style is needed to accommodate imperfect statehood, e.g., the title
Historical European perspectives
- The Maya civilisation, etc.) offer a wide spectrum of styles, either monarchic (mostly identical to homonyms in larger states) or republican, see Chief magistrate.
- Doges were elected by their Italian aristocratic republics from a patrician nobility, but "reigned" as sovereign dukes.
- The paradoxical term crowned republic refers to various state arrangements that combine "republican" and "monarchic" characteristics.
- The Habsburgmonarchs.
In medieval Catholic Europe, it was universally accepted that the
Title page of 1550 Italian edition of Machiavelli's The Prince
Bodin named on title page of Discorsi politici (1602) by Fabio Albergati who compared Bodin's political theories unfavourably with those of Aristotle
Frontispiece of Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (1651)
Interim and exceptional cases
Whenever a head of state is not available for any reason, constitutional provisions may allow the role to fall temporarily to an assigned person or collective body. In a republic, this is - depending on provisions outlined by the constitution or improvised - a
There are also several methods of head of state succession in the event of the removal, disability or death of an incumbent head of state.
In exceptional situations, such as war, occupation, revolution or a coup d'état, constitutional institutions, including the symbolically crucial head of state, may be reduced to a figurehead or be suspended in favour of an emergency office (such as the original Roman dictator) or eliminated by a new "provisionary" regime, such as a collective of the junta type, or removed by an occupying force, such as a military governor (an early example being the Spartan Harmost).
In early modern Europe, a single person was often monarch simultaneously of separate states. A
Such arrangements are not to be confused with supranational entities which are not states and are not defined by a common monarchy but may (or not) have a symbolic, essentially protocollary, titled highest office, e.g.,
Sir Paulias Matane (right) was Governor-General of Papua New Guinea
An example of a governor-general departing from
Another example occurred when, in the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis, the governor-general unexpectedly dismissed the prime minister in order to break a stalemate between the House of Representatives and Senate over money bills. The governor-general issued a public statement saying he felt it was the only solution consistent with the constitution, his oath of office, and his responsibilities, authority, and duty as governor-general. A letter from the queen's private secretary at the time, Martin Charteris, confirmed that the only person competent to commission an Australian prime minister was the governor-general and it would not be proper for the monarch to personally intervene in matters that the Constitution Act so clearly places within the governor-general's jurisdiction.
Other Commonwealth realms that are now constituted with a governor-general as the
Religious heads of state
Since antiquity, various dynasties or individual rulers have claimed the right to rule by divine authority, such as the Mandate of Heaven and the divine right of kings. Some monarchs even claimed divine ancestry, such as Egyptian pharaohs and Sapa Incas, who claimed descent from their respective sun gods and often sought to maintain this bloodline by practising incestuous marriage. In Ancient Rome, during the Principate, the title divus ('divine') was conferred (notably posthumously) on the emperor, a symbolic, legitimating element in establishing a de facto dynasty.
From the time of the 5th Dalai Lama until the political retirement of the 14th Dalai Lama in 2011, Dalai Lamas were both political and spiritual leaders ("god-king") of Tibet.
Multiple or collective heads of state
Sometimes multiple individuals are co-equal heads of state, or a
The position of head of state can be established in different ways, and with different sources of legitimacy.
By fiction or fiat
Power can come from force, but formal
By divine appointment
Under a theocracy, perceived divine status translated into earthly authority under
The notion of a social contract holds that the nation—either the whole people or the electorate—gives a mandate, through acclamation or election.
Individual heads of state may acquire their position by virtue of a constitution. An example is the Seychelles, as the 1976 Independence Constitution of the Seychelles, Article 31, stated that James Mancham would be the first President of the Republic by name, rather than by the fact he was the Prime Minister of colonial Seychelles immediately before independence.
By hereditary succession
The position of a monarch is usually hereditary, but in constitutional monarchies, there are usually restrictions on the incumbent's exercise of powers and prohibitions on the possibility of choosing a successor by other means than by birth. In a hereditary monarchy, the position of monarch is inherited according to a statutory or customary order of succession, usually within one royal family tracing its origin through a historical dynasty or bloodline. This usually means that the heir to the throne is known well in advance of becoming monarch to ensure a smooth succession. However, many cases of uncertain succession in European history have often led to wars of succession.
Before primogeniture was enshrined in European law and tradition, kings would often secure the succession by having their successor (usually their eldest son) crowned during their own lifetime, so for a time there would be two kings in coregency – a senior king and a junior king. Examples include Henry the Young King of England and the early Direct Capetians in France.
Sometimes, however, primogeniture can operate through the female line. In some systems a female may rule as monarch only when the male line dating back to a common ancestor is exhausted. In 1980,
In some monarchies there may be liberty for the incumbent, or some body convening after the death of the monarch, to choose from eligible members of the
Other hereditary systems of succession included tanistry, which is semi-elective and gives weight to merit and Agnatic seniority. In some monarchies, such as Saudi Arabia, succession to the throne usually first passes to the monarch's next eldest brother, and only after that to the monarch's children (agnatic seniority).