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The Shadow Cabinet is a feature of the Westminster system of government. It comprises a senior group of opposition spokespeople who, under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition, form an alternative cabinet to that of the government, and whose members shadow or mark each individual member of the Cabinet. Members of a shadow cabinet are often but not always appointed to a Cabinet post if and when their party gets into government. It is the Shadow Cabinet's responsibility to criticize the policies and actions of the government, as well as offering an alternative program.
In most countries, a member of the shadow cabinet is referred to as a Shadow Minister. In Canada, however, the term Opposition Critic is more usual. In the United Kingdom's House of Lords and in New Zealand, the term "spokesperson" is used instead of "shadow".
In the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia the major opposition party and specifically its shadow cabinet is called His or Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. The adjective "loyal" is used because, while the role of the opposition is to oppose Her Majesty's Government, it does not dispute the sovereign's right to the throne and therefore the legitimacy of the government. However in other countries that use the Westminster system (for example, New Zealand), the opposition is known simply as The Parliamentary Opposition instead of shadow.
Some parliamentary parties, notably the Australian Labor Party, elect all the members of their shadow cabinets in a party room ballot, with the Leader of the Opposition then allocating portfolios to the Shadow Ministers. In other parliamentary parties, the membership and composition of the Shadow Cabinet is generally determined solely by the Leader of the Opposition.
In many jurisdictions, third parties (which are neither participant in the government or in the official opposition) may also form their own parliamentary front benches of spokespersons; however, parliamentary standing orders on the right of parties to speak often dictate that it can only be granted to a party or group if a minimum number of members can be recorded by the party. In Ireland, for example, technical groups are often formed by third parties and independent TDs in the Dáil Éireann in order to increase the members' right to speak against larger parties which can afford the right to speak as Front Benches in Government or Opposition.
While the practice of a parliamentary shadow cabinets or frontbenches is not widespread in Germany, party leaders have often formed boards of experts and advisors ("teams of experts", or Kompetenzteam, in CDU/CSU and SPD parlance; alternate "top team", or Spitzenteam, in Alliance '90/The Greens parlance).
List of Shadow Cabinets
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- The Bahamas
- Official Opposition Shadow Cabinet of the 41st Parliament of Canada (New Democratic Party) (Thomas Mulcair)
- Contre-gouvernement (counter-government), dubbed by the media "cabinet fantôme" (literally : ghost cabinet). (Union for a Popular Movement) (Jean-François Copé)
- New Zealand
- Shadow Cabinet (Romanian: Cabinetul din umbră)
- Solomon Islands
- South Africa
- United Kingdom
- "Shadow Cabinet: Glossary". UK Parliament. Retrieved 22 September 2012.
- Mary Durkin; Oonagh Gay (21 June 2006). "Her Majesty’s Opposition, SN/PC/3910". Commons Standard Notes. Library of the House of Commons, UK Parliament. Retrieved 22 September 2012. "This note outlines the rights and privileges of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, or the Official Opposition, as the party with the second largest number of seats within the House of Commons is known."
- Manhire, Toby; Pinner, Philip (19 December 2011). "NZ election 2011: the aftermath". New Zealand Listener (APN News & Media). Retrieved 8 September 2013.
- Joel Bateman. "In The Shadows: The Shadow Cabinet in Australia". Parliament of Australia: Department of Parliamentary Services. Retrieved 22 September 2012. ISBN 978-0-9806554-0-7
- HARRY McGEE (January 11, 2012). "Technical group makes voice heard and gives bigger parties run for their money". Irish Times. Retrieved 18 May 2012.
- "TDs agree to form Dáil technical group". Irish Times. 3 Mar 2011. Retrieved 18 May 2012.