The United States And The Prime Minister Of The United Kingdom

Submitted By cathrija
Words: 1100
Pages: 5

The difference in power between the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
The President of the United States and the Prime minister of the United Kingdom are often perceived to be amongst the the most powerful political figures in the western world (1). In this essay the difference in power between the two will be briefly examined. Firstly the different constitutions of the two countries requires examination.
The Constitution, the codified document America was founded on and that which the President must abide by, clearly outlines the powers available to a US President. Article two, section two, of the Constitution states that “the President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States (…) he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment” (2). These are just some examples dictating what powers the president has and does not have as outlined in the constitution of the United States of America.
In comparison the United Kingdom has no such codified constitution, instead the constitution “consists of distinctive elements, most of which are in written form. These are statute law, common law or judge-made case law, conventions, certain ancient documents such as Magna Carta and EU law” (3). As the UK constitution is uncodified, Parliament, with the Prime Minister can, if need arises, pass a new Act of Parliament and thereby modifying the constitution (4).
The president of the United States is elected independently from congress. As a consequence of this independence the president has no guarantee of majority in the house of congress and can experience difficulties when “lobbying for support in an institution of which he is not a member, and the limits put on his powers by the system of checks and balances”. (5) When elected by the people a president of America can be guaranteed of a fixed term of four years in office and cannot be ousted by the senate or congress or a no-confidence vote unless there are serious charges against him (6). In addition when first elected a president may choose his cabinet with which he can work, but they must first be ratified by the US senate which may sometimes lead to a president working with people on the cabinet that he did not initially select (7)
Unlike their American counterparts, voters in the UK vote for a political party, and from within that political party a party leader is elected. After the election the leader of the party that holds the most seats in the house of Commons is asked by the queen to become prime minister and to form a government (8). A prime minister in the UK can theoretically serve out an unlimited term, provided a general election is held once every five years or less (9). However if the house of Commons demonstrates a lack of confidence by holding a no-confidence vote, the prime minister must immediately resign and the monarch will either choose a new prime minister or call a general election (10). When choosing a cabinet the prime minister has the power to freely appoint and dismiss his or her cabinet, typically comprising of twenty senior ministers (11).
A crucial factor when comparing the president and prime minister is that the latter is the leader of the party currently in power. This gives him or her an advantage over the president, who’s party, unlike the British prime minister, does not necessarily hold the majority of seats in congress and as such can have difficulty in getting his proposals converted into law (12). When foreign policy comes into question both leaders generally set the tone of their nations external relations (13). One difference between the two leaders is when the president wants to pass a treaty he or she must have it approved by two-thirds of the senate and “if his policy requires legislative backup he may have difficulty in getting this through the congress” (14). Because the Prime Minister leads a