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Political Systems

Political Systems

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Political Systems

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  1. Political Systems USA, UK, Australia

  2. Constitutions • A constitution is the system of rules about how a country is governed • America’s constitution was written in 1787 • Australia’s constitution was written in 1901

  3. British Constitution • The constitution is not a single document: • laws (passed by parliament) • Common Law • conventions (unwritten rules)

  4. Questions • What is a constitution? • structure of government? • criminal laws? • a single document? • What form does China’s constitution have?

  5. Changing the Constitution • America: three quarters of states • Australia: public vote • Britain: no different to changing any other law

  6. Branches of Government • Legislative (“legislate” = make law) • two houses of parliament • Executive (“execute” = do something) • government departments, army • Judiciary (“judge” = make a court decision) • courts and judges

  7. Legislative (all three countries) • Two houses: lower, upper • New laws need a majority vote in both houses • Laws may be first introduced in either house (but usually the lower house)

  8. Lower House (House of Commons, House of Representatives) • Regions (with approximately equal populations) each elect one member

  9. Senate • Original reason: small American states were worried that the big states would have all the power • America: each state elects 2 members • Australia: each state elects 7 memberss

  10. House of Lords • nobles with inherited titles • nobles with non-inherited titles (appointed by the Queen, on the advice of the Prime Minister) • No elections • Over 1000 Lords, but only about 250 attend regularly

  11. Executive • In Britain and Australia, the party with the most seats in the lower house becomes the government: • Party leader becomes Prime Minister • Some members of parliament become ministers (control certain departments) • Queen has almost no real power (mainly symbolic)

  12. Executive • In America, the Executive is separate from the Legislative • the people elect the president • the president appoints people to certain positions (heads of departments, etc) • Presidential election every 4 years

  13. Questions • Does China have a legislative, executive, and judiciary? • Compare China’s system to America and Britain: • what is similar? • what is different?

  14. Checks and Balances • Creators of the American Constitution worried that one person (such as the President) might become too powerful • They divided up the power • They provided ways for one part of the government to stop another part’s activities: “checks and balances”

  15. Checks and Balances • The legislative (Congress) makes laws, but… • the president must approve • the Supreme Court can decide the new law is unconstitutional • The president can sign treaties, but… • the Senate must approve

  16. Checks and Balances • Balance power between state and federal governments • Separate the branches (legislature, executive, judiciary) • Two houses of parliament • Britain: legislative is the most powerful • executive is chosen from members

  17. Checks and Balances • New laws need the president’s approval • But laws with a 2/3 majority in both houses of the legislative do not • The Supreme Court can decide that a law is unconstitutional • Treaties made by the president need the Senate’s approval • The legislative can impeach (sack) the president or a Supreme Court judge

  18. Two Party System (America, Britain, Australia) • Two major parties (plus smaller parties) • Therefore two choices for government/President/Prime Minister • Not imagined by the creators of the American Constitution