Great Britain is a constitutional monarchy with the Queen as the head of state. Britain is divided into four parts: England (London is the capital), Wales (Cardiff), Scotland (Edinburgh) and Northern Ireland (Belfast). Locally, Britain is divided into counties. The capital of the whole of Britain is London. Other big cities are e. g. Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, and Bristol.
The head of state is the Queen, but she can act only on the advice of her ministers. Queen Elizabeth II. lives in Buckingham Palace in London. She has four children - Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. The Constitution of the United Kingdom is unwritten; it is based on custom, tradition, and common law. The supreme law-making body in the country is the Parliament. The Parliament consists of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Houses of Parliament are the centre of British government. They were built during the last century. The British parliamentary system is one of the oldest in the world; it developed slowly during the 13th century after King John’s signing of the Magna Charta in 1215. The House of Commons has 650 Members of Parliament (MPs) - 523 from England, 72 from Scotland, 38 from Wales, and 17 from Northern Ireland. The House of Lords is made up of hereditary and life peers (Lords Temporal), 2 archbishops, and 24 bishops of the Church of England (Lords Spiritual).
From Monday to Thursday, all ministers must answer the MPs´ questions for one hour. It is called Questioning Time. Two days a week, the Prime Minister must answer the MPs´ questions. Another important parliamentary task is law-making. A proposal of some new law - a bill - must pass through both Houses and then be sent to the Queen for her Royal Assent.
General elections to choose MPs are held every five years. Voting is not compulsory and is allowed from the age of 18. In the elections of June 1987, the Conservative Party gained an overall majority. In the election held in April 1992, the Conservative Party won for the third time. Headed by John Major, the Conservatives gained 336 seats in the House of Commons.
The Government is made up of the party which has the majority in Parliament and the Queen appoints its leader as the Prime Minister. The present Prime Minister is the representative Tony Blair, who replaced John Major. John Major replaced Margaret Thatcher who had been in this office for 11 years.
The British national flag symbolizes the Union of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Each country has its cross in the flag.
The name of the national anthem is “God Save the Queen!” The British national flag is sometimes called the Union Jack. The origin of the name is uncertain. Each country has its cross in the flag (England – St. George’s Cross, Scotland – St. Andrew’s Cross, and Ireland – St. Patrick’s Cross.) Each part of Britain has its own symbol. England has the red rose, Wales has the leek and the daffodil (pórek a narcis), Scotland has the thistle (bodlák), and Ireland has the shamrock (jetel).
The USA with the President at the head of state is a federation of 50 states with 48 on the continent, Alaska in the North, and Hawaii in the Mid – Pacific. There is also one district – District of Columbia (DC) – which is not a state, but the state capital is situated here.
The Constitution went into effect in March, 1787. The Bill of rights was added in 1791. This document guarantees freedom of religion (náboženství), free speech (projevu), free press, the right to fair trial (právo na soud), etc. It gave the USA the principle of a balance of power divided into three branches (částí) – legislative, executive, and judicial.
The legislative branch is made up of elected representatives (Congress). Congress is divided into two parts: the House of Representatives which consists of lawmakers who are elected according to the population of each state, and the Senate. The Senate has its seat in the Capitol. It has 100 members - 2 from each state. The executive branch is represented by the President and 13 executive departments. The President is elected every 4 years.
The judicial branch is made up of federal district courts, 11 federal courts of appeals and at the top, the Supreme Court.
The political parties are made up of the Democratic Party which is more liberal (they think that the government should provide wide social and economic programs for those who need them and their symbol is the donkey), And the Republican Party which puts more emphasis (důraz) on private enterprise (podnikání) and individual initiative and their symbol is the elephant.
The flag consists (sestává) of two parts – one smaller blue oblong (obdélník) with 50 white stars symbolizing the 50 American states, and one larger oblong consisting of 6 white and 7 red stripes symbolizing the original 13 states which used to be the British colonies. The flag is sometimes called “Old Glory” or “Stars and stripes.” The American Anthem is called “The Star–Spangled Banner”.
The Czech Republic is a sovereign, united, and democratic state. Its government is divided into three branches – legislative which is represented by the parliament, executive which is represented mainly by the president and the government, and judicial which is represented by courts at various levels.
The Parliament consists of two chambers – the Chamber of Deputies (poslanecká sněmovna) and the Senate. Although, according to the constitution, both chambers should be working, but at present our parliament still lacks (postrádat) the Senate. It was supposed (předpokládat) to be formed subsequently (následující) while the chamber of Deputies was composed of the members of the former Czech National Council from the times of the federation. The 200 deputies and 81 senators have the exclusive duty of making laws. These two groups of members of the Parliament differ in the way in which they are elected and in the length of the terms they serve. The elections to the Chamber of Deputies take place every four years, while every two years one third of the Senators is renewed (obnoven). When these times come, every citizen (občan) from the age of 18 can exercise the universal, equal (rovnoprávné), direct (přímý), and secret right to vote. The Parliament’s main task is to pass laws, ratify (ratifikovat) international treaties, and decide (rozhodnout) on sending troops abroad.
The parliament is a law–making body. A new law-to-be, a bill, can be proposed (navrhnuto) by a deputy or a group of deputies to the Senate, the government, or to higher-level (local) authorities. The bill first goes to the Chamber of Deputies which debates and ultimately votes on it. A bill that has been passed by the Chamber of Deputies is then submitted (předkládáno) to the Senate where the process begins anew. The law (act) must be approved (schvalovat) by the government. A law must be signed by the head of the Chamber of Deputies, the Prime Minister, and the president. The president is elected every five years by the Parliament but no one can serve more than two terms in office in a row. The president represents the state abroad and concludes (uzavírat) foreign treaties (dohody). He also has many duties in relation to the other bodies of government: the appointment (jmenování) of all judges, generals to the army, ambassadors, and other officials. The president is also the commander-in-chief of the army.
The government is composed of the premier, the vice–premiers, and ministers. The hierarchy of the executive branch goes further down to local authorities where the municipality (městská správa) is the smallest unit. The several ministries headed (v čele) by ministers enforce (prosadit) laws made by the Parliament. Some of the ministries are: of the Interior, Foreign affairs, Defense, Justice, Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, Finance, Transport, Labor and Social affairs, Education, Culture, and Health.
The judicial power is divided into a system of courts (dvory) starting with the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court and going down to the courts at all levels of regional government. The courts check the constitution of existing laws. They apply the laws in practice in individual cases. They can nullify (zrušit) laws except for constitutional ones. Judges serve for an unlimited period of time, must have a good reputation, and must be professional lawyers.