prime minister

prime minister

Head of government in countries with a parliamentary (see parliamentary democracy) or semipresidential system of government. The prime minister is the leader of the political party or coalition with a governing majority and is formally appointed by the head of state. Although the origin of the title lies in 17th-century France, where the cardinal de Richelieu was acknowledged in 1624 as principal or premier ministre, the office essentially developed in Britain in the 18th century. Robert Walpole (1721–42) is generally considered the first British prime minister; the powers of the office were consolidated by William Pitt the Younger. The British prime ministry has served as a model for the heads of government in many Commonwealth countries, Europe, and Japan. The prime minister has appointive powers and is responsible for the government's legislative program, budget, and other policies. His term of office lasts until the next scheduled election or until he loses legislative support. In France and Russia, which have semipresidential systems with both a president and a prime minister, the president wields greater power but the prime minister controls the domestic legislative agenda. See also chancellor.


prime minister or premier

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