Do other countries have an Oval Office?
May 2, 2012 11:48 PM   Subscribe

Which other countries (if any) have a specific, famous office for their heads of government, comparable to the Oval Office for the President of the United States?

I'm a government geek, and sometimes get to wondering -- Where does the Prime Minister of the UK work? How about Sweden? Or Russia? Or China? Yes, they all have famous buildings where the head of government works (respectively Number 10 Downing St, Rosenbad, the Kremlin, Zhongnanhai), but I can't think of an office that any of them has that's comparable.

In other words, I'm not curious about the equivalent of the White House. I'm curious about the specific equivalent to the Oval Office.
posted by aurelian to Law & Government (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Salon dore in Paris' Elysee Palace.
posted by OHSnap at 12:03 AM on May 3, 2012

India's President has an office and residence at Rashtrapati Bhavan (literally, Presidential Palace).

India's Prime Minister has two office - one in South Block (which is the official, administrative office) and one at his residence at 7 Race Course Road (often abbreviated to 7RCR) (which is the political, ceremonial office).
posted by vidur at 12:23 AM on May 3, 2012

In the Netherlands: Het Torentje. The little tower. Sorry, link is in Dutch.
posted by Akke at 12:24 AM on May 3, 2012

I meant to add that in both cases (Indian PM and President), media refers to these buildings (Rashtrapati Bhavan, South Block, 7RCR) in equivalent terms to the Oval Office and the White House.
posted by vidur at 12:27 AM on May 3, 2012

The UK Prime Minister doesn't actually have a fixed room as his or her office. No 10 has the Cabinet Room, which does what it says on the tin, but PMs will generally choose one of the rooms next door as their office, depending on their preference. Tony Blair used to have lots of meetings in his sitting room, apparently.
posted by greycap at 12:51 AM on May 3, 2012

New Zealand's government works out of a Beehive.
posted by tracicle at 12:52 AM on May 3, 2012

The US Oval Office is, in some ways, more analogous to a monarch's throne than the offices of most western (or non-western) democracies. The Peacock Throne, or the Diwan-e-Aam, of the Mughals, for instance, might be a closer analogy than 10 Downing Street, in terms of having decisions come down from a person (or office) seated on high.
posted by tavegyl at 2:11 AM on May 3, 2012

Australian Prime Ministers and State Premiers have totally unremarkable (though, to be fair, very well-appointed) suites in the various Parliament Houses and State government buildings. There's no equivalent room.

The closest comparison for a symbolic physical location for the executive, here and in countries with comparable Westminsterish Parliaments, are the Government benches. Don't be fooled that they're in a legislative building! The benches are the physical seats on the floor of the Parliament where the Government MPs sit, staring the Opposition in the face. Ministers go at the front, hence "frontbenchers", and "backbenchers" for the more junior MPs, behind them. When Parliament sits the Prime Minister (in the Lower House) sits in front, and speaks from the despatch box.

To complicate things: there's a complicated bit of vice-regalia that goes with the precedence of the Speaker. The Speaker gets a chair above and looking down on the rest of the House, and gets a suite of dining rooms and reception rooms which have a diplomatic function. When George Bush addressed the Parliament on a state visit in 2003, they didn't put him at the despatch box (which would have implied he was governing the country, or at least that he was endorsing or siding with the then Government), they put him in the Speaker's chair (which implied both impartiality and his official function as a foreign Head of State).

The language about the an opposition wanting to move to the "Government benches", or an ambitious junior MP wanting to go to the frontbench, is very analogous to the language about US Presidential candidates sizing up the Oval Office, or for States, wanting to move to the Governor's mansion.

So, not quite an office, but definitely pieces of furniture.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:02 AM on May 3, 2012

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