The ‘Westminster system’ is a democratic parliamentary system of government modeled after the politics of the U.K. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
It’s a series of procedures for operating a legislature.
It is used, or was once used, in the national legislatures and sub national legislatures of most Commonwealth and ex-Commonwealth nations upon being granted responsible government, beginning with the first of the Canadian provinces in 1848 and the six Australian colonies between 1855 and 1890.
However some former colonies (e.g. Nigeria) have adopted the presidential system as their form of government.
The Westminster system of government may include some of the following features and Characteristics:-
1. a sovereign or head of state who functions as the nominal or legal and constitutional holder of executive power, and holds numerous reserve powers, but whose daily duties mainly consist of performing ceremonial functions.
Few Examples:- include Queen Elizabeth II, the Governors-General in Commonwealth realms, or the presidents of many countries and state/provincial governors in republican federal systems.
2. The Prime Minister (PM) (a head of government (or head of the executive)), premier or first minister. While the head of state appoints the head of government, constitutional convention suggests that a majority of elected Members of Parliament must support the person appointed. If more than half of elected parliamentarians belong to the same political party, then the parliamentary leader of that party typically gets appointed.
head of government usually made up of members of the legislature with the senior members of the executive in a cabinet adhering to the principle of cabinet collective responsibility; such members execute executive authority on behalf of the nominal or theoretical executive authority.
4. An independent, non-partisan civil service which advises on, and implements, decisions of those ministers. Civil servants hold permanent appointments and can expect merit-based selection processes and continuity of employment when governments change.
6. A legislature:-
a. often bicameral, with at least one elected house although unicameral systems also exist; legislative members are usually elected by district in first-past-the-post elections (as opposed to country-wide proportional representation). Exceptions to this include New Zealand, which changed in 1993 to use mixed-member proportional representation; Israel, which has always used country wide proportional representation; and Australia, which uses preferential voting.
7. A lower house of parliament with an ability to dismiss a government by "withholding (or blocking) Supply" (rejecting a budget), passing a motion of no confidence, or defeating a confidence motion. The Westminster system enables a government to be defeated or forced into a general election independently. a parliament which can be dissolved and snap elections called at any time.
8. parliamentary privilege, which allows The legislature to discuss any issue it deems relevant, without fear of consequences stemming from defamatory statements or records thereof
9. minutes of meetings:- often known as ‘Hansard’, including an ability for the legislature to strike discussion from these minutes
10. The ability of courts to address silence or ambiguity in the parliament's statutory law through the development of common law. Another parallel system of legal principles also exists known as equity though this has mostly been merged with common law or codified into statutory law.
Exceptions to this include India, Quebec in Canada, and Scotland in the UK amongst others which mix common law with other legal systems.
11. Most of the procedures of the Westminster system originated with the conventions, practices and precedents of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which form a part of what is known as the Constitution of the United Kingdom. Unlike the uncodified British constitution, most countries that use the Westminster system have codified the system in a written constitution. However, uncodified conventions, practices and precedents continue to play a significant role in most countries, as many constitutions do not specify important elements of procedure.
Example:- some older constitutions using the Westminster system do not mention the existence of the cabinet or the prime minister, because these offices were taken for granted by the authors of these constitutions.
Sometimes these conventions, reserve powers and other influences collide in times of crisis, and in such times the weaknesses of the unwritten aspects of the Westminster system, as well as the strengths of the Westminster system's flexibility, are put to the test.