Difference between President and Prime Minister

Updated on November 14, 2016

We all know what is said about great power and what it comes with. The president of the United States and the prime minister of the United Kingdom are perhaps two of the most powerful people in the world – imagine how immense the responsibility these positions entail. Let us highlight their roles and responsibilities and find out if there are any differences between the two.


U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President Barack Obama at a G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada.

A president is the leader of a nation or country, usually a democracy, republic or even dictatorship. The scope of authority and responsibilities of a president depends on the type of government in place, as well as the laws of governing the land.

In the U.S., the president is the head of the government and the state. He is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and is the head of the executive branch of the federal government. The president of the United States (POTUS) is perhaps one of the most powerful people in the world, in charge of a nation with one of the biggest economies and one of the most technologically advanced armies. The president wields hard and soft powers applicable in the U.S. and abroad.

The executive powers of the president come from the U.S. Constitution. These powers include carrying out laws passed by the U.S. Congress, appointing a cabinet of advisors, and granting federal reprieves and pardons. He is also responsible for directing his political party’s policymaking and agreeing to treaties with other powerful governments as well as directing the nation’s domestic and foreign policy. He is also has the authority to choose Supreme Court justices, judges and ambassadors.

A U.S. president can serve two four-year terms and is indirectly elected by the people via the Electoral College. It is prohibited for a president to a serve a third full consecutive term.

In the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister (PM) is the highest elected official of the land and sits as the head of government. Along with the Cabinet, the prime minister is accountable to the monarch, the Parliament, their political party and to the people. The office of the prime minister is among the Great Offices of State.

The office of the prime minister is based on long-standing, unwritten rules, not on any codified laws. The monarch appoints the prime minister, who is known as someone who has the utmost trust of the House of Commons.

The prime minister is the “Head of Her Majesty’s Government,” and as such, has both executive and legislative power. The prime minister guides their political party in creating laws. They can appoint as well as dismiss cabinet members, and they coordinate the policies and affairs of government departments.

The prime minister represents the Sovereign’s Government at home or abroad. They act as sole advisor to the Queen in exercising many prerogative and lawful powers. These include appointing knighthoods, decorations, conferral of peerages and other honors.

President vs Prime Minister

Given the various powers they exercise, what’s the difference between president and prime minister? The president of the U.S. possesses executive powers as provided by the U.S. Constitution and has grown more over time. The U.K.’s prime minister wields executive and legislative authority vested in the monarch and as declared by historic and contemporary constitutional conventions.

A U.S. president is indirectly elected by the people via the Electoral College. They can only hold up to two consecutive 4-year terms in office. A prime minister’s tenure is indefinite and is determined by convention, depending on the support of the House of Commons. The Sovereign appoints the prime minister as someone who has the confidence of the House of Commons.

Comparison Chart

PresidentPrime Minister
Acts as head of state and head of governmentActs as head of government
Wields executive powers vested by the ConstitutionWields executive and legislative powers
Indirectly elected by the peopleAppointed by the Sovereign


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