Party Politics in Europe

January 17, 1925
Entire Report

The perpetually recurring cabinet crises in Continental European countries and the frequency with which elections are held make it important to analyze their political systems in order to be able to form a better understanding of the causes and meaning of such crises. In France, Germany and Italy, the three Continental countries that will be chiefly considered in this report, the present position of the Cabinet in office is insecure and an early change of Ministry is freely predicted in political circles and in the press. The new Luther Cabinet in Germany promises to show no mere stability than those that have gone before.

The Cabinet System

All the governments of Europe except Soviet Russia are modeled on the British Parliamentary system. The head of the State (King or President as the case may be) reigns but does not govern. Nowhere in Europe does the Chief of State exercise powers comparable to those enjoyed by the President of the United States. He is a figurehead, wielding varying degrees of personal influence, who is forced to call upon some political leader to become Premier, Prime Minister, President do Conseil, or Chancellor—the actual Chief Executive—and to do the work of governing. This leader chooses his own Cabinet, which, is directly responsible to Parliament.

The Premier and his Cabinet differ from the American President and his Cabinet in several important particulars. Abroad the Cabinet members are nearly always members of one of the Houses of Parliament. Whether members or not they always have, as Ministers, the right to appear on the floor of both houses and to join in the debates. They are not responsible to the King or President but to the Parliament. They remain in power only so long as they can command either a real or a working majority in Parliament. Parliament in this instance means the Lower House except in France where the Cabinet falls if it fails to obtain a majority in either the Senate or the Chamber of Deputies.

History of Cabinet System

This system of responsibility of the Cabinet to Parliament instead of to the Chief of State developed during a long struggle in England. The earliest form of the Cabinet appeared in 1667 in the reign of Charles II. When he chose five advisers called the Cabal—the name being taken from their initials, Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley and Lauderdale. This Cabal, however, only faintly resembled a modern Cabinet as It represented the King and not the Nation or Parliament. The modern Cabinet really began to

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Regional Political Affairs: Europe