- This article concentrates on the several forms of government that have been applied to real states and countries that have been termed republic, for all other uses see: republic (disambiguation)
In a broad definition a republic is a state or country that is led by people that don't found their power status on any principle beyond the control of the people living in that state or country.
This definition encompasses most of the specific definitions that are (or were) used to characterize republics, but leaves much of the striking differences between states/countries that can in some way be called republics unexplained: the first section of this article gives an overview of these distinctions that characterise different types of non-fictional republics.
The second section of the article gives a short profile of some of the most influential republics, by way of illustration to the more comprehensive (but less detailed) List of republics.
There is a third section about the history of how people came to think about several forms of government as republics. This section is a summary of what is in the republicanism article.
Characteristics of republics
Heads of state
In most modern republics the head of state is termed president. In republics that are also democracies the head of state is appointed as the result of an election. This election can be indirect: a council of some sort is elected by the people, and this council elects the head of state. In these kinds of republics the usual term for a president is in the range of four to six years. In some countries the constitution limits the number of terms a same person can be elected as president.
If the head of state of a republic is at the same time the head of government, this is called a presidential system (example: United States). In Semi-presidential systems the head of state is not the same person as the head of government, who in that case is usually termed prime minister. Depending on the rules for appointing the president and the leader of the government, it is for some countries not excluded that the president and the prime minister have opposing political convictions: in France, when the members of the ruling cabinet and the president come from opposing political factions, this is called cohabitation.
In some countries, like Switzerland and San Marino, the head of state is not a single person but a committee (council) of several persons materialising that office. The Roman Republic had two consuls, appointed for a year by the senate, where during the year of their consulship each consul would in turn be head of state during a month, thus alternating the office of consul maior (the consul in power) and of consul suffectus (not-ruling consul, however with some supervision on the work of the consul maior) for their joint term.
Republics can be led by a head of state that has many traits of a monarch: not only do some republics install a president for life, and invest such president with powers beyond what is usual in a representative democracy, examples like the post-1970 Syrian Arab Republic show that such presidency can apparently be made hereditary. Until today historians disagree when the Roman Republic turned into Imperial Rome: the reason is that the first Emperors were given their head of state-like powers gradually, in a government system that in appearence did not differ from the Roman Republic.
Similarly, if taking the broad definition of republic above ("a republic is a state or country that is led by people that don't found their power status on any principle beyond the control of the people living in that state or country"), countries usually qualified as monarchies can have many traits of a republic in terms of form of government: the power status of monarchs can be non-existant, while limited to a "ceremonial" function, and/or the "control of the people" can be excerced thus litterally that they appear to have the power to have their monarch replaced by another oneTitle IX and Title I in the text for a constitution for Europe