Difference between Head of State and President

You must have heard the term ‘President’ on numerous occasions on your television sets or from some of the elders discussing politics. There will be hardly anyone, who would be unaware of what this word means and whom does it represent.

However, there are times when you hear the word ‘Head of State’ and don’t know who it represents. This term is not used commonly, so people get confused and feel that it is used for the President.

This can be true, depending on how things work in a particular country. For example, there is no parliamentary system in the United States of America and the person who wins the elections, gets elected as the President of the country.

In such a situation, the President is actually the Head of State and there is no difference in both terminologies. This means that both these words can be used for the United States President, Barack Obama.

On the other hand, things can be quite confusing when you head to a country with parliamentary democracy. When you happen to meet the President of such a country, you will feel that he/she also holds the position of the Head of State.

However, this is not how things work in countries with parliamentary democracy. Once the elections are held, the winning party names a Prime Minister, who is in charge of things for the next five years.

Moreover, the elected members of the parliament decide whether who the President of the country will be. If a single party wins the elections, it can easily decide both the top positions in the country. However, things are different when it comes to a coalition government.

In this scenario, the coalition partners sit together to decide the President of the country. However, the person selected for this position is not called the Head of State like in the United States, country with a Presidential governance system.

When one person holds both these positions, there is no confusion whether, who holds the authority. On the other hand, the highest rank in a parliamentary governance system belongs to the Prime Minister. Therefore, he/she is called the Head of State.


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    Depending on the governance system in a country, the President can be the highest ranked official of the state.

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    Head of State

    This position can be held by either the President or the Prime Minister of a particular country. The latter enjoys full authority in case of parliamentary democracy whereas the former holds power in case of a Presidential system.

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