The executive branch is one of the three powers that make up the State. It corresponds to the Government, and carries out the execution of laws and policies.
The executive power is held by the Government of a State. This is in charge of planning and directing state actions, and of applying the laws dictated by the legislative power. In turn, it is subject to the external control of the judiciary. In addition, it has other functions, such as representing the country abroad or controlling the armed forces.
It should be noted that public administrations belong to the executive branch, since they are in charge of executing the administrative function of the Government.
This power, like the rest, has its foundation in the existence of modern Western democratic states. The division of powers arises to avoid the tyranny and despotism of the executive power. A first division and development was carried out by the philosopher John Locke, although it was later perfected by Montesquieu, adding the judicial power. We say that it is characteristic of Western democracies, since if we speak of tyrannies, authoritarianisms, totalitarianisms or any other non-democratic regime, the powers are not separated and it does not make sense to speak of executive power as such, exclusively.
Who elects the executive branch?
In this section we are going to make a distinction between presidential, semi-presidential and parliamentary regimes. Each of them has its peculiarities, and this choice was not going to be different.
- Presidential regimes: In a presidential system, it is the citizens who directly elect the president. That is, to the head of State, by universal suffrage. In turn, it is the president who exclusively appoints the members of his government. That is to say, to his ministers.
- Semi-presidential regimes: In this system, citizens also directly elect the president. But the prime minister is chosen by the president, not the citizens. It is worth highlighting an important differentiation in this regard. And it is that, in certain systems, this appointment requires the approval of the legislative power, as it happens in Russia; in others, as in France, this vote is not needed. Finally, the ministers are chosen by the president, but at the proposal of the prime minister. Therefore, in semi-presidentialism, the executive power is two-headed: on the one hand it is made up of the president and, on the other, by the prime minister and his cabinet.
- Parliamentary regimes: In the parliamentary case, citizens do not elect the Prime Minister. They elect the legislative branch and the latter chooses, by parliamentary vote, the president. And it is the president who is in charge of appointing, by free appointment, his ministers.
Executive branch functions
In general, the executive branch has two functions:
- Political function: This is the substantial function of the Government. A government is chosen to make decisions on different matters, depending on what we expect of it. Decisions such as internal and external defense, direction of relations with other countries, both commercial and diplomatic. Decisions in the economic and fiscal sphere, as well as the public policies to be developed.
- Administrative function: The Government is the highest representative of the Public Administration, and as such, it is in charge of executing all laws and all procedures in accordance with approved legislation. That is, it has to efficiently manage the resources available so that all the services provided by law are provided effectively.
How is the executive branch removed?
The cessation of government is also different depending on whether it is one form of government or another. In presidentialism, the president cannot be removed from office unless impeachment prevails. This is a tool by which the president can be removed if he has committed a crime.
In semi-presidentialism, the way to remove the prime minister and his government is the motion of no confidence. Act by which, fulfilling a series of requirements, the parliament approves by an absolute majority the removal of the president and his replacement by another person. He can also be removed by the president, that is, by the head of state.
In the parliamentary system, to dismiss the Government it is only necessary that a vote of no confidence prevail.
However, it should be noted that, in general, governments can also be terminated at the end of the electoral mandate, or by their self-dissolution and the calling of new elections; although they would remain in office until then.