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Government: Executive and Its Types and Functions

Updated on February 10, 2012

Malaysia Current Prime Minister


The executive is the oldest of all branches of government. The executive branch of government has remained at the center of power of the government since groups began form government in society. It possesses great power and authority. It is “the apex of power in a political system at which policy is formed and through which it is executed”. Politics of Malaysia takes place in the framework of a federal constitutional monarchy, in which Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the head of the state and the Prime Minister of Malaysia is the head of government.

Executive power is exercised by the federal government and the 13 state governments. Federal legislative power is vested in the federal parliament and the 13 state assemblies. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature, though the executive maintains a certain level of influence in the appointment of judges to the courts.

The growth of Executive power in Malaysia has been addressed time and again. The concern is not the growth of Executive power so much as the decline of the institutions of the Monarchy, Legislature and Judiciary in the scheme of separation of powers. Our Federal Constitution as it stood in 1957 was not a perfect document. But it carried certain presumptions on the nature of checks and balances to ensure that power is effectively distributed between the constitutional institutions.


The executive is the oldest of all organs of the government and consists of an individual or small group. The executive organ existed even five thousand years ago. Executive in general refers to that branch of the political system which is in charge of the execution of the policies and the determination of general rules. There was no separate legislature or judiciary in ancient time. In the past, monarch is to known by different names in different countries. In the United States, the executive is known as the President. In other countries, the titles include King, Prime Minister, President, and Chancellor. Executives are chosen by the public and they had a great impact on the government and political system in the country.

Majority of all countries assume that the top administrator in any government officer. In some countries is considered the chief executives of state because it is usually a ceremonial figurehead leader or that someone who symbolizes the nation and it also charge of implementing policies and determining the general rules. For example, in Great Britain, Holland and Sweden, the king or queen is the chief of state. In other countries like Federal Republic in Germany, India and Israel the chief of state is known as the President. (Introduction to Political Science, Abdul Rashid Moten, 2011).


3.1 Nominal and Real Executives.

Both nominal and real executives have different meaning and function. Firstly, for nominal executive, it is mean that a man, either hereditary or elected is the head of government in theory but not in reality. These nominal executive is the executive is not directly involved in the governance of the country. Nominal executive refers to a person who often acts on the advice of someone (the prime minister or the cabinet) who constitutionally has the power to make actual decisions. The Executive remains as a figurehead and performs ceremonial functions. It has limited powers under the constitution and must act in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. He or she summons parliament, prorogues and dissolves it on the advice of the Prime Minister. It is not involved in policy making or policy execution. For example, Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA), the British Queen (Head of State).

Otherwise, for the real executive is means that the one who actually execute the laws, do the job in administration. The real executive has actual and wider powers. It is directly involved in the administration of the country and has actual control over the country. It makes decisions and policies. Furthermore, real executive is that person who responsible to the citizens. Example for the real executive is our Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, he is the person who is responsible to all Malaysian. In doing his job, he helped by his cabinet minister and public officer to make sure the guarantee of citizens right, harmony and peace in country and also ensure the development in our country. For example in other countries, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet in the United Kingdom, Malaysia, Canada, Australia and India. ( 02.htm).

3.2 Single and Plural Executives

Executive also been classified into single and plural executives. For single executives, all Political powers are in the hands of one person. Not just that, these single executive hold all the power in government and the citizens need to loyal and obey to these executives. The types of forms of government that applied this single executive is country that in absolute monarchy and dictatorship. It is can understand by looking the closest example, Brunei Darussalam, they do not have parliament in their system. All final decision comes from Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. While example the other country, US President, absolute monarchies and dictatorships (autocrats).

While for the plural executives, it is means that the executive power is vested not only in one man but in a council of members, each member is roughly equal in status and none is subordinate to the other. The power is divided among a number of people. The supreme executive authority is in the hands of a group of people. This means that decision and policies are made by a group of people. In other words, the decisions made are collective decisions. For example are the prime Minister and his Cabinet in democracies, and the Federal Council of Switzerland. (PAD 170 : Government and Politics, Peter Johnson)

3.3 Parliamentary and Presidential Executives.

In the parliamentary form of executive it is different from presidential system. It is because in parliamentary power is vested in the office at the Prime Minister who is the leader at the majority party in legislature. Furthermore, the head of government and head of state is different person and their function also different. Head of State who is the Chairman of the advisory board while Head of Government is the chairman of an active committee or party. While in Presidential System, the real executive power lies in the office of the President who is directly elected by people. Also the Head of Government and Head of State is the same person.

Malaysia operates a parliamentary system, in which the government is carried on in the name of the Head of the state, Yang di-Pertuan Agong, by ministers who enjoy the confidence of the majority in parliament and are responsible to parliament for all their public acts, both individually and collectively. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong appoints the Prime Minister and other ministers “on the advice of the Prime Minister” from among the members of either House of Parliament” (Art.43 (2) (b). As the Head of Government, The Prime Minister is responsible to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong for all government matters.


Nominal and Real executives.

Malaysia is a parliamentary democracy and as such it has both the nominal and real executives. Article 39 of the constitution vests “the executive authority” of the federation in the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and is exercisable by him or by the cabinet or any Minister authorized by the Cabinet. However, in the exercise of his functions, according to Article 40(1) and (1a), “The Yangdi-Pertuan Agong shall act in accordance with the advice of the cabinet or of a Minister acting under the general authority of the cabinet, except as otherwise provided by this Constitution” and “The Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall accept and act in accordance with such advice.” Thus, the constitution makes it absolutely clear that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the nominal executive and the Prime Minister and the Cabinet is the real executive. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong may voice any opinion on any matter he likes but in final analysis he follows the convention of acting on the advice of the cabinet. “There is no instance, as far as is known, in which this convention has been broken.”

Plural executives.

In Malaysia, plural executive had been applied in the administration system. Every minister will hold their own portfolio that is the ministry, then under the ministry will have many public officers that work in various agencies to go run the objective at ministry. These public officers are the closest executive to the citizens. They will prepared justification, data report and feedback that they get from the public to give the ministry. After that, the minister in that ministry will look up the report from public officer to make a new policy. All of these are example of plural executive that the power is not focus on only one person. But, even the executive power lies in the hands of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister remains all powerful, and this prevent the system from being really plural type of executive.


Executive is one of the important branches in the government and consist of an individual or small group. The executive responsible for executing and enforcing or put into effects, the laws legislated by the legislative body. In the parliamentary system that used in our country Malaysia, the executive are chosen by the public and they had a great impact on the government and political system in the country. They are elected by people in the general election.

In Malaysia, they are two types of executive that we have. The two types of executive are real executive and nominal executive. In the nominal executive, it will be Yang di-Pertuan Agong (YDPA) where the nominal executive acts as a figure head to the states and performs state ceremonial duties. For example of ceremonial is The Holy Al-Quran Ceremony International Level in-53 where located in the PWTC Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA).

Second, the real executive has a real power to execute policy is with the head of the government. The Prime Minister and his Cabinet Ministers are elected by the people to represent them in the government. In Malaysia, the person who has the real executive is our Prime Minister, Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak.


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      Arya 16 months ago


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      YUKTA MUTREJA 2 years ago

      I am happy for what our PRIME MINISTER - MR.NARENDRA MODI AND HIS CABINET AND OUR PRESIDENT - MR.PRANAB MUKHARJEE are working very hard for our countrymen.

      And I wish them - BEST OF LUCK for future!!!!!!!!!!

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      happy kalaba 3 years ago

      Zambian Executive is working hard that we the country members are benefiting from it and we happy for Mr Sata's government. Thank you.

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      noor fatima 4 years ago

      i want dictatorship executive in political science

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      gosh 4 years ago

      government structure is the most and minor structure it is constitution of members of paliamet it is great