Primus inter pares

Primus inter pares[1] (Ancient Greek: Πρῶτος μεταξὺ ἴσων, prōtos metaxỳ ísōn) is a Latin phrase meaning first among equals. It is typically used as an honorary title for those who are formally equal to other members of their group but are accorded unofficial respect, traditionally owing to their seniority in office.[2] Historically, the princeps senatus of the Roman Senate was such a figure and initially bore only the distinction that he was allowed to speak first during debate. Also, Constantine the Great was given the role of primus inter pares. However, the term is also often used ironically or self-deprecatingly by leaders with much higher status as a form of respect, camaraderie, or propaganda. After the fall of the Republic, Roman emperors initially referred to themselves only as princeps despite having power of life and death over their "fellow citizens". Various modern figures such as the Chair of the Federal Reserve, the prime minister of parliamentary regimes, the Federal President of Switzerland, the Chief Justice of the United States, the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Anglican Communion and the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church fall under both senses: bearing higher status and various additional powers while remaining still merely equal to their peers in important senses.

In the People's Republic of China, during the collective leadership of the Politburo Standing Committee which Deng Xiaoping put into place following the death of Mao Zedong, the term "first among equals" was often used to describe China's paramount leader. This has fallen out of favour since the consolidation of power under the current core leader, Xi Jinping.[3][4]

In the federal Commonwealth Realms, Canada and Australia, in which Queen Elizabeth II is head of state as constitutional Monarch, a Governor General as viceroy is appointed by the Queen in Council to represent the Queen during her absence. The Governor-General typically appoints the leader of the political party holding at least a plurality of seats in the elected Legislature to be prime minister, whose relationship with the other Ministers of the Crown is primus inter pares, or "first among equals". This is also done at the provincial or state level, wherein the Lieutenant Governors of the Canadian Provinces or Governors of the Australian states as Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council appoints the leader of the provincial or state political party holding at least a plurality of seats in the elected provincial or state legislature to be provincial premier or state premier.

As federations, in Canada, lieutenant-governors represent the Queen of Canada in each of the provinces, thus acting as the "heads of state" in the provinces.[citation needed] And, unlike in Australia with the governors of the Australian states, the lieutenant-governors in Canada are not appointed by the Queen-in-Council, but by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister of Canada, known as the Governor-in-Council – this recognizes structurally the fact that the Australian states, unlike the Canadian provinces, had a previous existence as Crown colonies prior to Australian federation in 1901. Similarly, in Australia, there are governors to represent the Queen of Australia in each of the states of Australia that comprise the federal Commonwealth of Australia, making them "head of state" in each of their own states.[citation needed] In each case, these several governors or lieutenant-governors are not envisaged as subordinate to the governor general – the governor-general of Australia and the governor general of Canada – as a federal viceroy – is "first among equals".[5]

Mayors of German city states have traditionally acted as primus inter pares. In Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen, which had been Free Imperial Cities from the times of the Holy Roman Empire, the government was called Senate and the mayor was one senator amongst many, often referred to as President of the Senate rather than Mayor. This ended in Lübeck with the incorporation into Prussia in 1937, while in a constitutional reform in 1996 the mayor of Hamburg was given broad powers to shape the politics of the Senate of Hamburg, thus ending his status as primus inter pares. However, in the city state Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, which was created after the Second World War, the mayor has had a similar role in the Senate of Bremen. The same was true until 1995 for the Governing Mayor of Berlin among his colleagues within the Senate of Berlin.

Starting with the Meiji Constitution of 1885, as part of the "Cabinet System Act", and lasting until the revision of the modern constitution in 1947, the Prime Minister of Japan was considered to be of the same rank as the other ministers who formed the Cabinet. During this time, the Prime Minister was referred to as "同輩中の首席" dōhai-chū no shuseki ("chief among peers").

The Prime Minister of the Netherlands (officially, the "minister-president") is the chairman of the Council of Ministers and active executive authority of the Dutch government. Although formally no special powers are assigned, the Prime Minister functions as the "face" of the cabinet of the Netherlands. Usually, the prime minister is also Minister of General Affairs. Until 1945, the position of head of the Council of Ministers officially switched between the ministers, although practices differed throughout history. In 1945, the position was formally instituted. Although not formally necessary, the Prime Minister in practice is the leader of the largest party in the majority coalition in the House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament.

In Switzerland the seven-member Federal Council constitutes the government. Each year, the Federal Assembly elects a President of the Confederation. By convention, the positions of President and Vice President rotate annually, each Councillor thus becoming Vice President and then President every seven years while in office.

This page was last edited on 12 July 2018, at 23:37 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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