The British democratic parliamentary system of government (termed the Westminster system after the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the UK Parliament) is a series of procedures for operating a legislature. It is used, or was once used, in the national legislatures and subnational legislatures of most Common wealth and ex-Commonwealth nations, beginning with the Canadian provinces in 1867 and Australian colonies in 1901.
Important features of the Westminster system include the following:
• a sovereign or head of state (the monarch) who is the nominal or theoretical holder of executive power, and holds numerous reserve powers, but whose daily duties mainly consist of performing the role of a ceremonial figurehead.
• a head of government (the prime minister), who is officially appointed by the head of state and in practice, is the leader of the largest elected party in parliament.
• a de facto executive branch usually made up of members of the legislature with the senior members of the executive in a cabinet led by the head of government.
• parliamentary opposition (a multi-party system).
• a bicamerallegislature, in which at least one house is elected; legislative members are usually elected by district in first-past-the-post elections.
• a lower house of parliament with an ability to dismiss a government by "withholding (or blocking) Supply" (rejecting a budget), passing a motion of no confidence, or defeating a confidence motion.
• a parliament which can be dissolved and elections called at any time.
However, it must be noted that the British Parliamentary system is often criticised for absence of clear-cut separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches, leading to a different set of checks and balances compared to those found in presidential systems.
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