Constitutional Heads of State

The recent Italian elections resulted in a hung Parliament. As a result, the Italian President will play a crucial role in the coming weeks as an honest broker between the parties as they attempt to assemble a coalition. This illustrates an important difference between our Constitution and those of many nations. We do not divide the role of head of state from the head of government. The function of a head of state in a democracy receives little attention in law reviews. (Indeed, a search shows that law review articles on heads of state are almost always about whether they have immunity from criminal prosecutions or civil suits.) I think that this is a significant oversight. Walter Bagehot’s book on The English Constitution, which is the best book ever written on how constitutions work, spent a great deal of time discussing the powers of the Crown as distinct from the Prime Minister. The fact that many countries deliberately reject the American fusion of the two…

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