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Britain is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch – Queen Elizabeth II – as a head of State. Political stability owes much to the monarchy. Its continuity has been interrupted only once (the republic of 1649-60) in over a thousand years. The Queen is impartial and acts on the advice of her ministers.


General elections to choose MPs must be held at least every 4-5 years. Voting, which is not compulsory, is by secret ballot and is from the age of 18. The candidate polling the largest number of votes in a constituency is elected. In the election of June 1997, when 65 per cent of the electorate voted, the Labor Party gained an overall majority of 101 (Labor 419 seats, Conservative 165 and others 24). In 1988 the liberal and social Democratic parties merged and are now the Liberal Democrats (46 seats).


The government is formed by the party with majority support in the Commons. The Queen appoints its leader as Prime Minister. As head of the Government the Prime Minister appoints ministers, of whom about 20 are in the Cabinet – the senior group which takes major policy decisions and individually responsible for their own departments. The second largest party forms the official opposition, with its own leader ‘shadow cabinet’. The Opposition has a duty to criticize government policies and to present an alternative program.

Policies are carried out by government departments staffed by politically neutral civil servants. They serve the government of the day, regardless of its political complexion.

1. What is the constitutional role of the Queen Elizabeth II in political system of Great Britain?

2. How many members does the House of Commons have?

3. Who can be a member of House of Lords?

4. What way should a bill pass to receive the Royal assent?

5. How often are the general elections to choose MPs held?

6. What is the minimum age that gives you a right to vote in Great Britain?

7. Who is the head of the Government?

8. What are his obligations?

9. What does the “shadow cabinet’ stand for? What is its major function?


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