To ensure effective governance in the transition period, it is essential that the Prime Minister and government do not resign until the next regular government has been formed.

Dr Petra Schleiter and Valerie Belu

Remedial Tutorial on Government Formation

Quite dishearteningly, the leaders of the three main federal political parties have made erroneous statements regarding government formation following a hung parliament result. All three have stated that the party with a plurality of the seats gets to form the government: In an interview with the CBC, Conservative Party leader and current Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following comments: Q: HERE’S THE QUESTION THOUGH. UM IS IT A CORRECT ASSUMPTION TO MAKE THAT WHICHEVER PARTY ENDS UP, IF WE’RE IN A MINORITY SITUATION, WHICHEVER PARTY ENDS UP WITH THE MOST SEATS SHOULD FORM THE GOVERNMENT? A: Yeah that’s my – that’s I think how conventionally our system works and for good reason and that’s – that’s my position. Obviously […]

The constitutional rule is that the politician who can command the confidence of the House of Commons becomes PM. This could be the leader of the second largest party, if he can secure sufficient support from third and minor parties.

The Constitution Unit

Government Formation Revisited

I’ve written a number of posts exploring the issue of government formation in a hung parliament, but in the lead-up to the May 7 2015 UK General Election, a number of helpful guides and videos on the issue have appeared. While they specifically address the current situation in the UK, the basic principles apply here in Canada as well (except for the conditions imposed by the UK’s Fixed-term Parliaments Act). Preparing for another hung Parliament: 9 key questions answered : The media and voters may assume that 2015 will then see a replay of 2010, with the swift formation of another coalition government. Not necessarily so, as explained by the former director of UCL’s Constitution Unit, Prof Robert Hazell in […]


Much ado about the Fixed-term Parliaments Act

It would be remiss of me to not comment on the growing worry over the UK’s Fixed-term Parliaments Act (FPTA) and its possible consequences should the May 2015 election result in another hung parliament, as most pundits expect will be the case. While I wrote a fair bit about the FTPA when it was going through the legislative process back in 2010-11, I will briefly outline its main features. Unlike Canadian legislation fixing election dates, the FTPA is binding. The duration of a parliament is set to five (5) years, and the Prime Minister cannot unilaterally call for an earlier election. The royal prerogative of dissolution has been removed. That said, an early election is still possible, by one of […]


A parliament of winners

The UK media is normally much better at writing about hung parliaments and government formation than is its Canadian counterpart. That being said, there are exceptions, such as this recent op ed piece by David Blair in the Telegraph, On May 8, a loser could enter No 10. Consider the following excerpts: The polls show that no party is on course for an outright majority: that much is clear. But they also suggest that the relationship between votes cast and seats won – always a pretty tenuous link – could be on the verge of breaking down. If so, this may be an election where the losers are rewarded with power and the winners consigned to opposition. (…) With Labour’s […]


Why Canadians should pay close attention to the UK election campaign

There will be a general election here in Canada in 2015, most likely in the fall. There is incessant speculation that the election may occur sooner than that, but as per our not-so-fixed election date, we will go to the polls in October. Before Canadians vote, there will be a general election in the UK, on May 7. And Canadians should be paying very close attention to the campaign and vote. Here are a few reasons why. 1. There will be debates. Probably. While leaders’ debates are old hat in Canada, the 2010 UK general election saw the first ever televised leaders’ debates. This time around, there are three debates scheduled. The first two (April 1 and 16) will feature […]

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Rethinking hung parliament outcomes

With a little less than five months to go until the next UK general election in May 2015, the general consensus amongst pundits and pollsters is that there will be another hung parliament. UK Parliamentary Election Forecast has been releasing daily seat projections based on polling trends. The most recent forecasts have predicted either a tie between the Conservatives and Labour, or else one of the two major parties marginally ahead by a handful of seats or less. In every instance, however, each party is well short of the 326 seats needed for a (one-seat) single party majority government. This reality has prompted a number of news articles and opinion pieces speculating on the problem of government formation following the […]