Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Westminster Regained: the Applicability of the Westminster System for Executive Power in India, Ceylon and New Zealand After Independence

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posted on 2021-11-03, 21:06 authored by Kumarasingham, Harshan

This thesis investigates the applicability of the Westminster system for the sovereign executives of India, Ceylon and New Zealand. These three countries became independent in the late 1940s and though individually having different contexts share constitutional and institutional resemblances, thanks to their Westminster legacy, that allows a valuable and original triangular study. The thesis analyses the crucial first decade of independence to assess the events, decisions and political environment of these New Westminsters and how the local executives adapted and reacted to the Westminster system in this constitutionally nascent era. This thesis will examine and compare the three case studies from a common theoretical approach. Firstly, each country’s cultural background and conditions will be analysed to comprehend not only the context in which Westminster functions, but also more importantly to understand the exercise of power available within the localised social and political arena. The cultural conditions are crucial since they impact directly on the constitutional and political exercise of Westminster executive power and give an invaluable insight into how the ambiguous and flexible tenets of Westminster were interpreted in local contexts. Secondly, the concept of horizontal accountability and delegative democracy will be tested in the New Westminsters to see how well the purported checks and balances of the Westminster model operate on the executive level in the crucial nation building era. Prime Ministers are unquestionably important, but how well the Cabinet and the Governor-General (or constitutional President) operate as actors of accountability and how well all three actors conform to the Westminster cultural and institutional expectations of their office is also highly relevant. The actions and inactions of these executive actors of this early era are fundamental to the future functions and expectations of their offices. Finally, there will be an event or issue selected during this decade, which has path dependent resonance, since it would in future become critical to the operation or complexion of the country. Often this event or issue had not yet been fully appreciated, but had been allowed to develop through the employment of Westminster flexibility and power demonstrating the importance of this critical juncture period. The adaptable Westminster system was an essential element in the political development of these countries.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Political Science

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of History, Philosophy, Political Science and International Relations


Brooker, Paul