Otázka: American and British political system
BRITISH POLITICAL SYSTEM
The United Kingdom is one a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy. British constitution is unwritten, just based on statutes and important documents (such as Magna Carta), customs and conventions,case law– decision made by courtoflaw and canbemodifiedby a simpleActofParliamentlikeanyotherlaw. The head of state is a reigning monarch not ruling, Queen Elizabeth II is the present. Formally she’s still head of the executive and judiciary, commander-in-chief of all the armed forces, and temporal governor of the Church of England. Besides carrying out important ceremonial duties, she also acts as a “unifying force” in both the Constitution and the nation, lying outside of the political debate.
The Parliament consists of the monarch, of whom I’ve just spoken, the hereditary and appointed House of Lords, and the elected House of Commons. The 650 members of the House of Commons, each member representing one of the 650 constituencies (electoral district), are elected for five-year terms, though the prime minister may call general elections at any time. Its main function is to legislate while the House of Lords can revise given Bills. The House of Commons is presided over by the Speaker.
Executive power is in hands of the prime minister and his Cabinet (group of ministers). The prime minister, the highest political authority in the UK, currently David Cameron, appoints ministers, acts as the public “face” and “voice” of Her Majesty’s Government, both at home and abroad and co-ordinates government policy and activities.
A two-party system has existed in the UK since the late 17th century, though it’s occasionally threatened by a third party. The Conservative Party and the Labour Party are the dominant parties today. Because it is supported by the party with a majority in the House of Commons, the Cabinet exercises the sovereignty of Parliament. The royal right of veto has not been exercised since the 18th century, and the legislative power of the House of Lords was reduced in 1911 to the right to delay legislation. The Cabinet plans and lays before Parliament all important bills. While the Cabinet thus controls the lawmaking machinery, it is also subject to Parliament; it must expound and defend its policy in debate, and its continuation in office depends on its retaining the confidence of the House of Commons.
The right to vote is given to all citizen at the age of 18. Citizens vote in parliamentary and local elections and also in elections to the European Parliament. Each member of the House of Commons represents one parliamentary constituency. Registration of electors is compulsory and carried out annually. Candidates for election to Parliament (over 21=age)or a council are normally selected by the local parties.
The House of Commons is elected for maximum term of five years, reduced in 1911 from seven. At any time during those five years, the prime minister has the right to request the monarch to dissolve Parliament and call a general election.
A two-party system has existed in the UK since the late 17th century. From the mid-1920s the dominant groupings have been the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, despite the existence of smaller parties such as the Liberal Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party.
The two-party system, together with uncertainty about the timing of a general election, has produced the British phenomenon of the Opposition. Its decisive characteristics is that it attempts to form an alternative government, ready at any time to take office, in recognition of which the leader of the Opposition is paid an official salary.
Todaythe UK has threedistinctsystemsoflaw: Englishlaw, NorthernIrelandlaw and Scotslaw. Recentconstitutionalchangessaw a newSupremeCourtofthe United Kingdomcomeintobeing in October 2009 thattook on the appeal functionsoftheAppellateCommitteeoftheHouse ofLords. TheJudicialCommitteeofthePrivyCouncil, comprisingthesamemembers as theAppellateCommitteeofthe House ofLords, isthehighestcourtof appeal forseveral independent Commonwealthcountries, the UK overseasterritories, and theBritishcrowndependencies.
AMERICAN POLITICAL SYSTEM
The U.S. Constitution defines a federal system of government in which certain powers are delegated to the national government; other power falls to the states. The national government consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The respective government institutions are The Presidency, Congress and The Courts.
The Constitution was ratified by all 13 states in 1791 containing ten amendments collectively known as the Bill of Rights(freedoms of religion, speech, press etc), which protects citizens against possible tyranny by the federal government. The Constitution which has changed many times in its history, has abolished slavery and declared former slaves citizens with the right to vote, has allowed the direct election of U.S. senators, and effected women’s suffrage.
The executive branch of the government is headed by the president, currently Barack Obama. He must be an American, born in the United States and at least 35 years old. In addition, he must be a resident of the country for at least 14 years. The president is a treaty maker, commander in chief of the army, and head of state. He also formulates foreign policy. The members of the Cabinet are appointed by the president with the approval of the Senate. The president is indirectly elected through Electoral College for four-year terms (and can only be re-elected for one more term) by democratically chosen electors from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. He is also head of government, initiating legislation and formulating foreign policy. It has been said that the President’s only real power is the power to persuade.
The role of Vice-President, who is elected the same way as the President, is to become a president upon the death, resignation or medical impairment of the President.
The legislative branch of the government is the Congress, which has two houses: the Senate (100 members), a conservative counterweightprotiváha to the more populist and dynamic House of Representatives (435 members). Legislative bills may be introduced in and amended by both houses. A bill must pass both of them and be signed by the president before it becomes law. The president may veto a bill, but a veto can be overridden by two-thirds vote of both houses. Congress’ next task is to scrutinizeprozkoumat the policies and actions of the executive, control the nation’s finances and its permanent specialist staff helps Congress consider and change the budget presented each year by the President.
Each state elects two senators. They must be at least 30 years old, residents of the state from which they are elected, and previously citizens of the U.S. for at least 9 years. Each term of the service is for six years, and terms are so arranged that one-third of the members are elected every two years.
The House of Representatives is chosen by direct vote. Members must be 25 years old, residents of the state from which they are elected, and previously citizens of the U.S. for at least 7 years. They serve for a two-year period. The Speaker of the House is chosen by the majority party and one of his duties is to preside over debate.
There are two major political parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. There is very little ideological difference between them, as both parties defend the free-enterprise capitalist system.
Judicial branch is headed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which interprets the meaning of the Constitution and of federal laws. It consists of nine judges (including the chief justice) appointed by the president with the agreement of the Senate.