Executive: Definition, Functions and Types.

        The executive arm of government is the organ responsible for policymaking and implementation of policies and laws made in the country. The executive arm of government is the same with administration or cabinet, the president or prime minister of a country, governors of states, ministers, the civil service, the armed forces, the police, etc, belong to the executive arm of government. The executive carries out the day- to-day work of government.

In some countries, the executive may equally perform some legislative and judicial functions. For example, the President of the United States of America has power from the constitution to pardon offenders. Also, he appoints top civil servants and judges to the supreme court. However, the functions of the executive largely depend on the type of constitution in operation in a particular country. For example, the functions of the executive in a presidential system of government, as in the U.S.A.. is different from the parliamentary system of government in Britain.

              Functions of the Executive arm of government
1. Policy formulation: Policy formulation is
one of the major functions of the executive.

2. Supervision: The executive supervises the administrative functions and directs the execution of laws made in the state.

3. Appointment of top officials: The executive has the power to appoint and remove top officials of the state from

4. Declaration of war: It can declare war, maintain peace, and fight back foreign invasion.

5. Representation: It represents the state in its relations with other countries.

6.Power of pardon: It pardons those that have offended the state.

7.Budgeting: It prepares and delivers the
annual income and expenditure of the state.

8.Maintenance of law and order: The law enforcement agent the police are responsible for this function.

9. Signing of bills into law: For a bill to
become a law, the president has to sign it.

             Types of Executives arm of government

There are different types of executives and the following should be considered:

(a) Single and plural executives
(b) Parliamentary and non-parliamentary executives.

(a) Single executives: The control of the executive rests with one individual. The President of the U.S.A.hashis ministers named by him and dependent on him, they are his advisers and
agents, not his colleagues.
Plural executives: The president of the Swiss Confederation (Switzerland) is the chairman of the federal council and exercises the usual powers of a chairman. Other members of the council are
his colleagues, not agents or advisers.

(b) Parliamentary executives: The executive in Britain is chosen from parliament and holding office only so long as it commands the confidence of that parliament. Non-parliamentary executives: The executive in the U.S.A. is chosen independently of the
the legislature and holding office for a fixed term.


1. Power to initiate bills: The influence of the executive in the area of law-making through its powers of initiating bills to the

2. Control of armed forces and the police: The executive controls the armed forces and the police and other executive instruments, thereby adding to the growth of influence and power of the executive in the modern governmental system.

3. Quasi-judicial powers: For instance, the power of pardon (the prerogative of mercy). This has added to the growth of the powers of the executive.

4.The issue of dependence: The judiciary and the legislature depend on the executive to effect their decisions.


1. The constitution: It imposes limitations on the wielding of the power and functions or the executive. It cannot act ultra-vires.

2. Challenged in courts: Actions of the Executive could be challenged in courts and such acts could be declared illegal, null, and void, or better still unconstitutional.

3. Judicial application: Certain writs e.g.habeas corpus, mandamus, injunction, etc, could be used to compel the executive to do certain things.

4. Appointments: Some appointments and decisions of the executive have to be approved by the legislature in the presidential system of government.

5. Presidential system of government: In this system, the president can be impeached, while in the parliamentary system, a vote of no confidence can be passed on to the executive.

6. Change of government: A change of government by peaceful or violent means could be used if the government becomes unpopular or unreasonable.

7. Parliamentary system of government: There is the emergence of “shadow cabinet’ or the ‘opposition bench’ in the system
and it subjects the executive to constant watch, scrutiny, and criticism.

8. Through party caucuses: Through the party caucus and representation in the legislature, for example, in the House of Commons in Britain, the executive is also controlled.

Read about the Judiciary and Legislative arm of government.

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