Difference Between Head of State and Head of Government (With Table)

Every state, regardless of whether they are democratic, republic, monarch or dictator, is ruled and governed by certain people who have terms and importance that differs with the state and the system they follow.

They are generally referred to as the head of state and head of government depending on the number of officials present in the system. Sometimes, they can be the same person as well or is answerable to one another.

Head of State vs Head of Government

The difference between Head of State and Head of Government is that in parliamentary systems, the head of state can be anyone from the general public but the head of government has to be someone from the legislative assembly or is a member of the parliament.

Head of the state is the individual who is responsible for maintaining integrity and represent the unity of a state. Depending on the democratic system, their roles and importance vary from state to state.

Head of government is the individual who is responsible for law-making of the state and are answerable to the head of state in most cases. Usually, they are the highest or second highest official of the state.

Comparison Table between Head of State and Head of Government

Parameters of ComparisonHead of StateHead of Government
MeaningIs an individual who is the chief executive of the countryIs the individual who is responsible for all the decisions taken and is the chief of the executive branch
Represented byMostly by the president of the countryThe prime minister of the country
Who are they?They can be common public and not necessarily a member of the parliament.Elected from the member of the parliament.
Role playedThey do not play any role in the government matters but are generally to show unity among different parts of the countryThey deal with government law-making and breaking process and are responsible for all the decisions taken in their period of rule.
PowerThe head of government can be removed by the head of stateHead of state cannot be removed by them

Who is the Head of State?

Head of the state is a non-parliamentary member in the case of a parliamentary system in the country. They are selected based on their contribution to the country and their nationality.

In countries with parliamentary systems, they are called the President. But in countries with a presidential system, the head of state is the head of government. They are responsible for maintaining unity and for representing the unity of the country.

In India, they are in charge of the Union Territories that do not come under the powers of the government. They are also responsible for the approval of the new laws made. In some parliamentary systems like Africa, the head of state and head of government are same and they are called as the executive president.

They only have a symbolic role in the legislative assembly. The head of state is only required during the opening ceremony of a legislative assembly.

Who is the Head of Government?

Head of government is a member of parliament who is elected to be in charge of all the decisions being taken during his time of power. They do not have authority over the head of state and cannot remove them

Usually, they are the highest or second highest official of the executive branch. The roles of head of government and their relation with the head of state or other parliamentary members vary from country to country.

The head of government is usually the head of a political party in the case of parliamentary systems like in the case of India. They are called the Prime Minister of the country until their time of rule.

In some cases, like in semi-presidential systems, the head of government is answerable to both, the head of state and legislature. In dictatorial systems, the roles of head of government are divided and played by a group of people who are apt for the respective jobs.

Main Differences Between Head of State and Head of Government

  1. The head of state is the individual who is the chief executive of the country whereas the head of government is the person who is considered to be the executive of the chief branch and are responsible for all the decisions made under their command.
  2. President of a parliamentary system can be considered as the head of state whereas the Prime Minister is seen to play the role of the head of government.
  3. The head of state need not be a person from parliament and does not need to be a member. They can be chosen among the common people. But the head of government has to be a member of the parliament before they get elected as head of government.
  4. As we have seen, the president or the head of state does not play any role in the decision making of the country but rather are seen as a sign of unity among different parts of the country. the head of government deals with the law-making of the government and are responsible for all the decisions taken while they are still in power.
  5. Head of state holds authority overhead of government. They can remove them at their will but the reverse is not possible. The head of government cannot remove the head of state.

Conclusion

Head of state and head of government are the ones who rule over and govern the state with their norms and laws. They have different roles to play and in most cases are interdependent.

The head of state is the individual who is responsible for symbolic representations of the state and their importance. They are the ones who approve new laws and the only ones who can add it to their constitutions.

The head of government is the second-highest official of the executive branch if the state has a different head of state and head of government. The laws passed by the head of state are made by them.

The roles played by the head of state and head of government depends on the state and their systems. The head of state in most cases are the highest officials of the state followed by the head of government.

References

  1. Head of State and Head of Government in Comparative Perspective (jstor.org)
  2. The Resolution of the Institute of International Law on the immunities of heads of state and government (jstor.org)