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Study Notes

Parliamentary democracy

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

A Parliamentary democracy is where the democratic governance of a state features an executive branch (the part of government with the authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state) derives legitimacy from, and is held accountable to, the legislature (Parliament, with the power to enact, amend and repeal laws).

In this system of government, the Head of state is normally a different person from the head of government. In the UK, which is a constitutional monarchy, the Queen is the ceremonial head of state whilst the Prime Minister is the head of Government. In some other countries, such as Israel, the Head of State is the (mostly ceremonial) President, but the Head of Government is the Prime Minister.

Britain’s system of Parliamentary democracy, along with most other Western Governments,is also commonly called a ‘Liberal Democracy’, in which Government gets its legitimacy from the people through regular elections, in which most adults can vote, with good choice of candidates and a secret ballot. That government should be accountable to the people for what it does, with Parliament holding it accountable.There should be a free press, free speech and in most countries a written Bill of rights that prioritises the rights of the individual. A central aim of liberal democracy as a system is that it tries to limit the power of the main branches of government over the individual.

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