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Czechoslovakia Table of Contents


The Executive Branch

The executive branch of government consists of the president, the premier, a number of deputy premiers, and the federal ministers. According to the Constitution, the president is elected by the Federal Assembly to a five-year term of office. In practice, the president is first selected by the KSC leadership and then "officially" voted into office by the Federal Assembly. As head of state, the president represents the nation in diplomatic affairs, receives and appoints envoys, convenes the Federal Assembly, and signs laws into force. He is commander in chief of the armed forces and is empowered to appoint or remove the premier, other members of the executive, and other high civilian and military officials. There is no vice president; rather, the Constitution provides that if the presidential office becomes vacant, the premier will be entrusted with the president's duties until the Federal Assembly elects a new president.

The premier, the deputy premiers (numbering ten in 1987), and the federal cabinet ministers are collectively termed "the government," which is constitutionally defined as "the supreme executive organ of state power." All are chosen by the Central Committee of the KSC and formally appointed by the president. If both chambers of the Federal Assembly vote to censure any or all members of the government, the president is obliged to remove those members. The premier, deputy premiers, and ministers collectively form the Presidium of the Government of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. This Presidium supervises and controls the activities of the federal ministries, commissions, and other departments. These Presidium functions appear to correspond to the purpose of the government as stated in the Constitution, which is to ensure the implementation of laws enacted in the Federal Assembly and to coordinate, direct, and control activities in the federal ministries and other federal offices.

Federal ministers are important administrators, but they lack the political weight of their counterparts in most noncommunist countries. The number of ministries and the division of responsibilities among them have varied over time. In August 1986 there were thirteen federal ministries: agriculture and food; communication; electrotechnical industry; finance; foreign affairs; foreign trade; fuels and power; general engineering; interior; labor and social affairs; metallurgy and heavy engineering; national defense; and transportation. In addition, five individuals held positions that granted them ministerial status. These include the minister-chairmen of the Federal Price Office and the People's Control Commission, the chairman of the State Planning Commission, and the minister-deputy chairmen of the State Planning Commission and the State Commission for Research and Development and Investment Planning. These ministerial and ministerial-level positions within the government parallel similar organs within the KSC, where policy is actually formed before it is enacted by federal government officials.

Data as of August 1987