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Executive government

Queen Elizabeth II is New Zealand’s sovereign and head of state. Since the Queen is not usually resident in New Zealand, the functions of the monarchy are conducted by her representative, the governor-general. As of 2017, the Governor-General is Dame Patsy Reddy. A governor-general formally has the power to appoint and dismiss ministers and to dissolve Parliament; and the power to reject or sign bills into law by Royal Assent after passage by the House of Representatives. He or she chairs the Executive Council, which is a formal committee consisting of all ministers, who advise the governor-general on the exercising of the prerogative powers. Members of the Executive Council are required to be members of Parliament (MPs), and most are also in the Cabinet.

Cabinet is the most senior policy-making body and is led by the prime minister, who is also, by convention, the parliamentary leader of the largest governing party. The prime minister, being the de facto leader of New Zealand, exercises executive functions that are formally vested in the monarch (by way of the prerogative powers). Ministers within Cabinet make major decisions collectively, and are therefore collectively responsible for the consequences of these decisions.

Following a general election, a government is formed by the party or coalition that can command the confidence (support) of a majority of MPs in the House of Representatives. The most recent general election, held in September 2017, saw Labour finish in second place but able to govern through a coalition with New Zealand First, and a confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party. The Sixth Labour Government, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, was sworn in by the Governor-General on 26 October 2017.

Since 2017, the National Party has formed the Official Opposition to the Labour-led government. The leader of the Opposition heads a Shadow Cabinet, which scrutinises the actions of the Cabinet led by the prime minister. The Opposition within Parliament helps to hold the Government to account.

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