Why do Some Countries Have Both a President and a Prime Minister?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

There are several countries around the world where the structure of the government requires the presence of both a president and a prime minister. While this may seem unusual to some, there are actually some excellent applications of this type of arrangement. Here are a few examples of countries that function with both and how the process works in each of those countries.

In France, the prime minister and president focus on different aspects of foreign and internal policy.
In France, the prime minister and president focus on different aspects of foreign and internal policy.

In most cases, the presence of both a president and a prime minister is simply a division of labor. One such example is in the country of France. Within this structure, there are clearly delineated powers between the prime minister and the president that allow each of the roles to focus on different aspects of internal and foreign policy. In each case, the central government has specified the areas of responsibility for both roles. The end result is that each office is able to focus on certain functions, and neither has sufficient power to create some of the political issues that have plagued the country in times past. Thus, the two roles in this situation could be said to be a means of building automatic checks and balances into the system, eliminating the opportunity for too much power to be placed in one office.

Other countries specify a mix of prime ministers and presidents that essentially divides the responsibilities along the lines of good public relations and serious attention to the running of the government. The country of Ethiopia is a good example of this model of having a president and a prime minister. The role of president in the Ethiopian government is strictly one that requires functioning as the head of state at national and international events. This means a lot of travel, a great deal of mingling with citizens of both Ethiopia and other countries, and representing the country with an eye toward promoting it in the eyes of the world. By contrast, the prime minister is considered the head of government and is responsible for being a member of the country’s parliament, and serves as a chairperson. Unlike the president, the Ethiopian prime minister holds a great deal of political power and also has a huge amount of responsibility for the efficient running of the government.

In some cases, countries that provide for both in their form of government often elect the prime minister, while the role of president is appointed. In some instances, while the prime minister is an elected official, part of the tradition is for the president to formally ask the newly elected prime minister to form a government on behalf of the head of state. The president may be appointed by a committee within the government or by an act of parliament. While the internal function between a president and a prime minister may vary somewhat from one country to another, the main purpose is to create a means of efficiently overseeing the operation of the country, both from a perspective of public relations and the actual running of the government itself.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Turkey is also one of the countries that has both a president and a prime minister. According to the constitution, president is elected by public vote for a five year term. A prime minister is appointed from the members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly by the president.


Ireland has the same equivalent division of President and Prime Minister as discussed in this article.


Other countries that have both a prime minister and president: Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, and Sri Lanka.

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