I am just curious if there is a country or any state entity in the world where government ministers (equivalent of US department secretaries) are actually elected vs being appointed by the president or legislatures.

  • Do subnational levels of government count?
    – cpast
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 21:04
  • Yes, that's what I meant by "any state entity"
    – amphibient
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 21:15
  • 1
    As an historical footnote, originally the POTUS did not get to chose the VPOTUS; VPOTUS was the runner-up of the presidential elections (probably the designers of the system thought that ellections would be based more in capacity and honesty than in party lines). After a few ellections it became clear that it was not a good thing having the POTUS and the VPOTUS belonging to different parties, so it was changed to the current system.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Mar 7, 2016 at 23:23
  • Westminster system governments require that ministers be selected from the legislature. In some cases the legislature is entirely elected while in others there's a convention is that only elected legislators in particular. So ministers have to be elected, but not as ministers. I expect that's not what you mean but it would be best to clarify.
    – smithkm
    Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 0:04
  • @smithkm - That is the basis of a great answer, imo. Commented Mar 8, 2016 at 1:48

3 Answers 3


Many US states elect certain cabinet officers. The Attorney General is a common example, as is the Secretary of State (who typically runs elections, deals with corporate registration, and other miscellaneous duties).


In Switzerland:

  • Federal ministers are elected, but by the parliament. The government is not approved as a whole (as it is in many parliamentary democracies) and ministers are not appointed by anyone (and certainly not by the president, who will be chosen between them afterwards and changes every year) but really stand for election, one by one. However, they are not elected directly by the people (if that's what you meant) and in most cases the election is not competitive as the parties negotiate beforehand (it's not always the case however, for example in the last election, one party was promised a seat but submitted three candidates – obviously there is a long backstory but that's not really important here, the point is that there was an election which was not merely a confirmation hearing for an appointment).
  • In Glarus (a Kanton or federated state), state ministers were directly elected by the people, gathered in a yearly assembly (Landsgemeinde) until 1971. They still elect the “prime minister” (Landammann) and judges that way. They also vote directly on laws, taxes and a host of other things.

In UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and anywhere else the parliamentary system applies, ministers are drawn from elected representatives.

  • 1
    For the UK: mostly true; ministers (though rarely heads of department, these days) are also drawn from the House of Lords. Commented May 26, 2016 at 9:02

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