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De facto head of state: Wikis


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A de facto head of state is an office-holder who fulfils some, many, or all of the functions of a head of state. However, he or she is not considered a full head of state, but simply acts like a head of state in the absence of the state's legal and official, or de jure, head. A common example of this are the Governors-General of Commonwealth realms. Those countries all share a monarch, who spends most of her time in the United Kingdom, so the remaining countries have their governors-general act as head of state in the monarch's absence.


On the diplomatic circuit

While a de facto head of state as a non-head of state cannot be automatically treated as a head of state internationally, they may be treated like a head of state on state visits as a mark of respect, not automatically diplomatic requirement. For example, Buckingham Palace has, in the past, suggested that when Governors-General travel abroad, they are doing so as the direct representative of the monarch, therefore, should be treated as the sovereign would be treated.

Entry in office and its meanings

The lesser status of a de facto head of state is clearly indicated both by the manner of their appointment and method of entry into office. A full head of state could not be appointed by another head of state, nor could they take an oath of allegiance to another head of state, merely an oath of office to the constitution. Someone being appointed by, and taking an oath to, another head of state by definition cannot be a head of state, as a head of state's allegiance is only to the state, its people and constitution, not a constitutionally higher office holder, given that a head of state is generally the highest constitutional office-holder possible. A de facto head of state only exists where a full head of state exists already to fulfill a role that cannot be filled by the chief executive because they do not actually reside in the state, and so cannot take on the day-to-day symbolic and representational role normally performed by a resident heads of state.

Deceased head of state

In the unusual case of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994, had created the Eternal President of the Republic. Subsequent rulers of North Korea, including Kim Jong-il, have technically been de facto heads of state.

See also



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