Parliamentary republic

A parliamentary republic is a republic that operates under a parliamentary system of government where the executive branch (the government) derives its legitimacy from and is accountable to the legislature (the parliament). There are a number of variations of parliamentary republics. Most have a clear differentiation between the head of government and the head of state, with the head of government holding real power, much like constitutional monarchies (however in some countries the head of state, regardless of whether the country's system is a parliamentary republic or a constitutional monarchy, has 'reserve powers' given to use at their discretion in order to act as a non-partisan 'referee' of the political process and ensure the nation's constitution is upheld).[1][2] Some have combined the roles of head of state and head of government, much like presidential systems, but with a dependency upon parliamentary power.

Systems of government
Republican forms of government:
  Presidential republics with an executive presidency separate from the legislature
  Semi-presidential system with both an executive presidency and a separate head of government that leads the rest of the executive, who is appointed by the president and accountable to the legislature
  Parliamentary republics with a ceremonial and non-executive president, where a separate head of government leads the executive and is dependent on the confidence of the legislature
  Republics with an executive presidency elected by the legislature

Monarchical forms of government:
  Constitutional monarchies with a ceremonial and non-executive monarch, where a separate head of government leads the executive
  Constitutional monarchies with a ceremonial monarch, but where royalty still hold significant executive and/or legislative power
  Absolute monarchies where the monarch leads the executive

  Countries which do not fit any of the above systems (e.g. transitional government or unclear political situations)

For the first case mentioned above, the form of executive-branch arrangement is distinct from most other governments and semi-presidential republics that separate the head of state (usually designated as the "president") from the head of government (usually designated as "prime minister", "premier" or "chancellor") and subject the latter to the confidence of parliament and a lenient tenure in office while the head of state lacks dependency and investing either office with the majority of executive power.


In contrast to republics operating under either the presidential system or the semi-presidential system, the head of state usually does not have executive powers as an executive president would (some may have 'reserve powers' or a bit more influence beyond that), because many of those powers have been granted to a head of government (usually called a prime minister).[1][2]

However, in a parliamentary republic with a head of state whose tenure is dependent on parliament, the head of government and head of state can form one office (as in Botswana, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and South Africa), but the president is still selected in much the same way as the prime minister is in most Westminster systems. This usually means that they are the leader of the largest party or coalition of parties in parliament.

In some cases, the president can legally have executive powers granted to them to undertake the day-to-day running of government (as in Austria and Iceland) but by convention they either do not use these powers or they use them only to give effect to the advice of the parliament or head of government. Some parliamentary republics could therefore be seen as following the semi-presidential system but operating under a parliamentary system.

Historical development

Typically, parliamentary republics are states that were previously constitutional monarchies with a parliamentary system, with the position of head of state given to a monarch.[3]

Following the defeat of Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War, France once again became a republic – the French Third Republic – in 1870. The President of the Third Republic had significantly less executive powers than those of the previous two republics had. The Third Republic lasted until the invasion of France by Nazi Germany in 1940. Following the end of the war, the French Fourth Republic was constituted along similar lines in 1946. The Fourth Republic saw an era of great economic growth in France and the rebuilding of the nation's social institutions and industry after the war, and played an important part in the development of the process of European integration, which changed the continent permanently. Some attempts were made to strengthen the executive branch of government to prevent the unstable situation that had existed before the war, but the instability remained and the Fourth Republic saw frequent changes in government – there were 20 governments in ten years. Additionally, the government proved unable to make effective decisions regarding decolonization. As a result, the Fourth Republic collapsed and what some critics considered to be a de facto coup d'état, subsequently legitimized by a referendum on 5 October 1958, led to the establishment of the French Fifth Republic in 1959.

Chile became the first parliamentary republic in South America following a civil war in 1891. However, following a coup in 1925 this system was replaced by a Presidential one.

Commonwealth of Nations

Since the London Declaration of 29 April 1949 (just weeks after Ireland declared itself a republic, and excluded itself from the Commonwealth) republics have been admitted as members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

In the case of many republics in the Commonwealth of Nations, it was common for the Sovereign, formerly represented by a Governor-General, to be replaced by an elected non-executive head of state. This was the case in South Africa (which ceased to be a member of the Commonwealth immediately upon becoming a republic), Malta, Trinidad and Tobago, India and Vanuatu. In many of these examples, the last Governor-General became the first president. Such was the case with Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

Other states became parliamentary republics upon gaining independence.

List of modern parliamentary republics

Parliamentary republics
Country Head of state elected by Cameral structure Parliamentary republic adopted Previous government form
 Albania Parliament, by majority Unicameral 1991 One-party state
 Armenia Parliament, by absolute majority Unicameral 2018[note 1] Semi-presidential republic
 Austria Direct election, by second-round system Bicameral 1945 One-party state (as part of Nazi Germany, see Anschluss)
 Bangladesh Parliament Unicameral 1991[note 2] Presidential republic
 Bosnia and Herzegovina Direct election of collective head of state, by first-past-the-post vote Bicameral 1991 One-party state (part of Yugoslavia)
Bulgaria Direct election, by second-round system Unicameral 1991 One-party state
Croatia Direct election, by second-round system Unicameral 2000 Semi-presidential republic
 Czech Republic Direct election, by second-round system (since 2013; previously parliament, by majority) Bicameral 1993 Parliamentary Republic (part of Czechoslovakia)
 Dominica Parliament, by majority Unicameral 1978 Associated state of the United Kingdom
 Estonia Parliament, by two-thirds majority Unicameral 1991[note 3] One-party state (part of Soviet Union)
 Ethiopia Parliament, by two-thirds majority Bicameral 1991 One-party state
 Fiji Parliament, by majority Unicameral 2014 Military dictatorship
 Finland Direct election, by second-round system Unicameral 2000[note 4] Semi-presidential republic
 Georgia Electoral college (parliament and region delegates), by absolute majority Unicameral 2018[note 5] Semi-presidential republic
 Germany Federal Assembly (parliament and state delegates), by absolute majority Bicameral 1949[note 6] One-party state
 Greece Parliament, by majority Unicameral 1975 Military dictatorship; constitutional monarchy
 Hungary One-party state Unicameral 1990 One-party state
 Iceland Direct election, by first-past-the-post vote Unicameral 1944 Constitutional monarchy (part of Denmark)
 India Parliament and state legislators, by instant-runoff vote Bicameral 1950 Constitutional monarchy (British Dominion)
 Iraq Parliament, by two-thirds majority Unicameral[note 7] 2005 One-party state
 Ireland Direct election, by instant-runoff vote Bicameral 1949[note 8] To 1936: Constitutional monarchy (British Dominion)
1936–1949: ambiguous
 Israel Parliament, by majority Unicameral 2001 Semi-parliamentary republic
 Italy Parliament and region delegates, by absolute majority Bicameral 1946 Constitutional monarchy
 Kosovo Parliament, by two-thirds majority; by a simple majority, at the third ballot,
if no candidate achieves the aforementioned majority in the first two ballots
Unicameral 2008 UN-administered Kosovo (formally part of Serbia)
 Kyrgyzstan Direct election, by second-round system Unicameral 2010 Presidential republic
 Latvia Parliament Unicameral 1991[note 9] One-party state (part of Soviet Union)
 Lebanon Parliament Unicameral 1941 Protectorate (French mandate of Lebanon)
 Malta Parliament, by majority Unicameral 1974 Constitutional monarchy (Commonwealth realm[4])[5]
 Mauritius Parliament, by majority Unicameral 1992 Constitutional monarchy (Commonwealth realm[6][7][8])[5]
 Moldova Direct election, by second-round system
(since 2016; previously by parliament, by three-fifths majority)
Unicameral 2001 Semi-presidential republic
 Montenegro Direct election, by second-round system Unicameral 1992 One-party state (Part of Yugoslavia, and after Serbia and Montenegro)
   Nepal Parliament and state legislators Bicameral[9] 2015[note 10] Constitutional monarchy
 North Macedonia Direct election, by second-round system Unicameral 1991 One-party state (part of Yugoslavia)
 Pakistan Parliament and state legislators, by instant-runoff vote Bicameral 2010[10][11] Semi-presidential republic
 Samoa Parliament Unicameral 1960 Trust Territory of New Zealand
 Serbia Direct election, by second-round system Unicameral 1991 One-party state (part of Yugoslavia, and after Serbia and Montenegro)
 Singapore Direct election (since 1993) Unicameral 1965 State of Malaysia
 Slovakia Direct election, by second-round system (since 1999; previously by parliament) Unicameral 1993 Parliamentary Republic (part of Czechoslovakia)
 Slovenia Direct election, by second-round system Bicameral 1991 One-party state (part of Yugoslavia)
 Somalia Parliament Bicameral 2012[note 11] One-party state
 Trinidad and Tobago Parliament Bicameral 1976 Constitutional monarchy (Commonwealth realm[12])[5]
 Vanuatu Parliament and regional council presidents, by majority Unicameral 1980 British–French condominium (New Hebrides)
Parliamentary republics with a "mixed-republican" system
Country Head of state elected by Cameral structure Parliamentary republic adopted Previous government form
 Botswana Parliament, by majority Unicameral 1966 British protectorate (Bechuanaland Protectorate)
 Kiribati Direct election, by first-past-the-post vote Unicameral 1979 Protectorate
 Marshall Islands Parliament Bicameral 1979 UN Trust Territory (part of Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands)
 Micronesia Parliament, by majority Unicameral 1986 UN Trust Territory (Part of Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands)
 Myanmar Parliament, by an electoral college Bicameral 2010 Military dictatorship
 Nauru Parliament Unicameral 1968 UN Trusteeship between Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
 South Africa Parliament, by majority Bicameral 1961 Constitutional monarchy (Commonwealth realm[13][14][15])[5]

List of former parliamentary republics

Country Year became a parliamentary republic Year status changed Changed to Status changed due to
First Czechoslovak Republic 1920 1939 One-party state Munich agreement
Third Czechoslovak Republic 1945 1948 One-party state Coup d'état
Fifth Czechoslovak Republic 1989 1992 Parliamentary Republics Velvet Divorce
First Austrian Republic 1920 1929 Semi-presidential system Constitutional amendment
 Brazil 1961 1963 Presidential system Referendum
 Burma (present-day Myanmar) 1948 1962 Military dictatorship 1962 Burmese coup d'état
Chile 1891 1924 Military junta 1924 Chilean coup d'état
1925 1925 Presidential system Constitutional amendment
French Third Republic 1870 1940 Puppet state World War II German Occupation
French Fourth Republic 1946 1958 Semi-presidential system Political instability
 Guyana 1970 1980 Presidential system Constitutional amendment
Hungary 1946 1949 One-party state Creation of the People's Republic of Hungary
 Indonesia 1945 1959 Presidential system Constitutional amendment
 Israel 1948 1996 Semi-parliamentary system Constitutional amendment
Second Republic of South Korea 1960 1961 Presidential system May 16 coup
Lithuanian First Republic 1920 1926 One-party state 1926 Lithuanian coup d'état[note 12]
 Nigeria 1963 1966 Military dictatorship
(which led in 1979
to the democratic, presidential Second Nigerian Republic)
Coup d'état
 Pakistan 1956 1958 Military dictatorship 1958 Pakistani coup d'état
197319781977 Pakistani coup d'état
198819991999 Pakistani coup d'état
Second Polish Republic 1919 1939 One-party state Invasion of Poland
First Portuguese Republic 1911 1926 Military dictatorship
(which led in 1933
to the Estado Novo One-party state)
May 28 coup
First Philippine Republic (Malolos Republic) 1899 1901 Military dictatorship
(De facto United States Colony)
Capture of Emilio Aguinaldo to the American forces
Fourth Philippine Republic 1973 1981 Semi-Presidential Republic
(de facto Military dictatorship under Martial Law between 1972 and 1986.)
Constitutional Amendment
Republic of the Congo 1960 1965 Military dictatorship
(De facto One-party state)
1965 Congolese coup d'état
 Russia 1991[note 13] 1993 Semi-presidential system Referendum[note 14]
 Rhodesia 1970 1979 Parliamentary system Creation of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia
 Spanish Republic 1931 1939 Fascist dictatorship Loss of Spanish Civil War
 Sri Lanka 1972 1978 Semi-presidential system Constitutional amendment
Syrian Republic 1930 1958 One-party state Creation of the United Arab Republic
Syrian Arab Republic 1961 1963 One-party state 1963 Syrian coup d'état
 Turkey 1923 2018 Presidential system Referendum
 Uganda 1963 1966 One-party state Suspension of the constitution
 Zimbabwe Rhodesia 1979 1979 Parliamentary system Reversion to Southern Rhodesia
 Zimbabwe 1980 1987 Presidential system Constitutional amendment

See also


  1. Changed after the 2015 referendum.
  2. Was, previously, a parliamentary republic between 1971 and 1975.
  3. Estonia was previously a parliamentary republic between 1919 and 1934 when the government was overthrown by a coup d'état. In 1938, Estonia adopted a presidential system and in June 1940 was occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union.
  4. Formerly a semi-presidential republic, it is now a parliamentary republic according to David Arter, First Chair of Politics at Aberdeen University. In his "Scandinavian Politics Today" (Manchester University Press, revised 2008 ISBN 9780719078538), he quotes Nousiainen, Jaakko (June 2001). "From semi-presidentialism to parliamentary government: political and constitutional developments in Finland". Scandinavian Political Studies. 24 (2): 95–109. doi:10.1111/1467-9477.00048. as follows: "There are hardly any grounds for the epithet 'semi-presidential'." Arter's own conclusions are only slightly more nuanced: "The adoption of a new constitution on 1 March 2000 meant that Finland was no longer a case of semi-presidential government other than in the minimalist sense of a situation where a popularly elected fixed-term president exists alongside a prime minister and cabinet who are responsible to parliament (Elgie 2004: 317)". According to the Finnish Constitution, the president has no possibility to rule the government without the ministerial approval, and does not have the power to dissolve the parliament under his or her own desire. Finland is actually represented by its prime minister, and not by its president, in the Council of the Heads of State and Government of the European Union. The 2012 constitutional amendements reduced the powers of the president even further.
  5. Georgia is transitioning to a parliamentary republic
  6. In the case of the former West German states, including former West Berlin, the previous one-party state is Nazi Germany, but in the case of the New Länder and former East Berlin it is East Germany. Please note that German reunification took place on 3 October 1990, when the five re-established states of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) joined the Federal Republic of Germany, and Berlin was united into a single city-state. Therefore, this date applies to today's Federal Republic of Germany as a whole, although the area of former East Germany was no part of that parliamentary republic until 1990.
  7. Officially bicameral, upper house never entered into functions, to present day.
  8. The head of state was ambiguous from 1936 until the Republic of Ireland Act came into force on 18 April 1949. A minority of Irish republicans assert that the Irish Republic proclaimed in 1919 is still extant.
  9. Latvia was previously a parliamentary republic between 1921 and 1934 when the then prime minister Kārlis Ulmanis took power in a coup d'état. In June 1940 Latvia was occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union.
  10. Had a transitional government between 2008 and 2015.
  11. Had a transitional government between 1991 and 2012.
  12. In June 1940, Lithuania was occupied and annexed by the Soviet Union.
  13. Post of President of Russia is created, and development of separation of powers is started, some of Supreme Soviet's executive powers is transferred to new post. Before that, Russia was a Soviet republic.
  14. Preceded by crisis and armed dissolving of the Supreme Soviet of Russia, then-parliament of the Russian Federation.


  1. Twomey, Anne. "Australian politics explainer: Gough Whitlam's dismissal as prime minister". The Conversation. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  2. "The President's Role - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  3. Arend Lijphart, ed. (1992). Parliamentary versus presidential government. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-878044-1.
  4. "Malta: Heads of State: 1964-1974". Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  5. "British Monarch's Titles: 1867-2018". Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  6. "Mauritius: Heads of State: 1968-1992". Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  7. Paxton, John (1984). The Statesman's Year-Book 1984-85. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-333-34731-7. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  8. Cahoon, Ben. "Mauritius". Archived from the original on 15 January 2013. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  9. Constitution of Nepal Archived December 23, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  10. Kiran Khalid, CNN (2010-04-09). "Pakistan lawmakers approve weakening of presidential powers". Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  11. "'18th Amendment to restore Constitution' | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | English | Online". Archived from the original on 2010-04-14. Retrieved 2010-04-14.
  12. "Trinidad and Tobago: Heads of State: 1962-1976". Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  13. "South Africa: Heads of State: 1910-1961". Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  14. Carlin, John (31 May 1994). "South Africa returns to the Commonwealth fold". The Independent. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
  15. "Secession Talked by Some Anti-Republicans". Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. 11 October 1960. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
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