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Student learning outcomes
Key words
government the system or organisation that runs a country. In New Zealand, it is made up of members of parliament (MPs) who belong to the party (or coalition of parties) that has the most seats in parliament

What is government?

By the end of this chapter you will: understand that there are many different styles of government operating around the world be able to define some of the more common styles of government be able to explain the advantages and disadvantages of some styles of government be able to make an informed decision about which you feel is the preferred style of government.

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member of parliament (MP) coalition prime minister sovereign parliament

a representative elected to parliament by the voters of an electoral district an alliance of political parties that join together to govern a country



Dictatorship Dictatorship

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the leader of an elected government; the principal minister of a sovereign or a state the person that exercises supreme, permanent authority, e.g. a king or queen the group of MPs who decide the laws for a country, composed of every person who won a seat in an election. Parliament keeps a close watch on the government and debates all major issues that affect the country the committee of senior members of the government responsible for controlling government policy cabinet

Communist Communist

Constitutional Constitutional democracy democracy

Oligarchy Oligarchy
Monarchy Monarchy

Presidential republic Presidential republic

Socialism Socialism


1 What type of government do we have in New Zealand? 2 What types of governments do the following countries have? USA China United Kingdom.

Types of government
There are many different styles of government in the world. A large number of countries have adopted a combination of styles. The most common types of government are listed below.

In communist countries, the state plans and controls the economy. A single party holds the power, with the stated aim that all goods are equally shared by all the people, and that all people have equal rights. This has often led to an authoritarian party taking control of an entire country without making any effort to bring about a truly equal society.
A Chinese stamp from 1950, depicting the communist leaders Joseph Stalin of Russia (left) and Mao Zedong of China

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A constitutional government is one that operates according to a written set of rules (a constitution). This sets out the nature, functions and limits of the government.

In a democracy, the people of a country or state hold the power, because they vote for their representatives. Elections are held regularly, so it is important that the representatives please the people or they will lose their position. In a parliamentary democracy the parliament selects the government (the prime minister and all cabinet ministers) according to the number of votes the party has gained in an election.

November 1989: The Berlin Wall, a symbol of communist repression, is torn down. The fall of the Berlin Wall began the process of the reunification of communist East Germany with democratic West Germany.

4 Dictatorship
A style of government where a ruler or small group of rulers has absolute power and is not restricted by a constitution or set of laws.

A monarchy is system of governance in which the monarch (king or queen) has the supreme power and reigns over the country or state. The monarch usually holds this position by inheriting it from his or her parents. In constitutional monarchies the monarch is guided by a set of laws that sets out the limits and functions of the monarch. In absolute monarchies the monarch rules without any laws which put limits on their power. Parliamentary monarchies have a monarch who is not actively involved in making policies or laws. The monarch holds a ceremonial position, and the country is ruled by the parliament.

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President Nicolas Sarkozy of the French Republic. France was ruled by an absolute monarchy until the French Revolution, which took place in 1789.

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Oligarchy Presidential Republic Socialism

In an oligarchy, a small group of people with wealth or power rule the country or state.

A presidential system, also called a congressional system, is a style of government in which the executive branch exists and governs separate from the parliament, to which it is not accountable. In normal circumstances, parliament cannot dismiss the executive.

A republic is a style of government similar to a democracy. The people and their elected representatives hold supreme power, and there is an elected or nominated president rather than a monarch.

A style of government in which central government controls the manufacturing and distribution of goods, and looks for an equal distribution of property and labour. Socialist governments have generally been unable to achieve equality and have often resulted in a group of wealthy, important people ruling over everyone else.


The Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al Said. Omans system of government is considered to be an absolute monarchy.

In small groups: 1 Create an advantages and disadvantages chart (see below) for five types of government, including parliamentary democracy. 2 Decide which of the styles of government described on pages 3 and 4 you would prefer to be ruled by.

Advantages and disadvantages of types of government

Type of government 1 Parliamentary democracy 2 Advantages Disadvantages

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The New Zealand government

New Zealands system of government is a parliamentary democracy. The New Zealand parliament meets in Parliament House, Wellington, to debate issues concerning New Zealand, and to make laws. Parliament is made up of 120 MPs who are elected by the voters of New Zealand. It is the job of each of these MPs to represent the people of New Zealand. Parliament is there to ensure that New Zealand is governed in a fair and democratic manner, and is also responsible for New Zealands economy.

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the part of government that has the power to put laws or actions into effect the overthrow of a government or social system by force
New Zealands parliament buildings in Wellington. In the centre of the picture is The Beehive the name commonly used to describe the executive wing of parliament. The Beehive was officially opened in 1977.

Key words
executive revolution

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