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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In parliamentary systems, a dissolution of parliament is the dispersal of a legislature at the call of an election.

Usually there is a maximum length of a legislature, and a dissolution must happen before the maximum time. Early dissolutions are allowed in many jurisdictions.





The House of Representatives, but not the Senate, can be dissolved at any time by the Governor-General. The House expires 3 years after its first meeting if not earlier dissolved. The Senate can be dissolved by the Governor-General only when the double dissolution provisions are invoked, in which case the House of Representatives is also dissolved at the same time. There exists a convention that the Governor-General only orders a dissolution on the advice of the Prime Minister. This convention was broken in 1975, resulting in a very serious constitutional crisis in Australia, when the Governor General controversially exercised his reserve powers and dismissed the Federal majority government of Labor Prime Minister Gough Witlam.

State of Victoria

Unlike the Commonwealth Parliament, the Premier and Governor of Victoria have very little discretion in dissolving the Victorian Parliament. Both the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council are dissolved automatically twenty-five days before the last Saturday in November every four years. However, the Governor can dissolve the Legislative Assembly if a motion of no confidence in the Premier and the other Ministers of State is passed and no motion of confidence is passed within the next week. Finally, the Premier can advise the Governor to dissolve both houses in the case of a deadlocked bill.


The House of Commons, but not the Senate, can be dissolved at any time by the Governor General, conventionally on the advice of the Prime Minister. If the government is refused confidence or supply, the Prime Minister must either resign and permit another member of the House of Commons to form a government, or else advise the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament. Also, the House of Commons automatically dissolves after five years, although no House of Commons has yet survived that long.

The Provincial legislatures may also be dissolved at any time for the same reasons, by the Lieutenant-Governor on the advice of the Premier. British Columbia, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and The Northwest Territories have established fixed election dates.


The French National Assembly can be dissolved by the French President at any time after he consulted the Prime Minister and the presidents of the two chambres of parliament. The National Assembly elected following such a dissolution cannot be dissolved within the first year of its term.

Federal Republic of Germany

According to the German constitution, the Bundestag can be dissolved by the federal president if the Chancellor loses a vote of confidence, or if a newly elected Bundestag proves unable to elect a chancellor with absolute majority. The second possibility has never occurred yet but the Bundestag has been dissolved in 1972, 1982, and 2005 when the then-ruling chancellors Brandt, Kohl, and Schröder deliberately lost votes of confidence in order that there could be fresh elections. On the last two occasions the decree of dissolution was challenged without success before the Constitutional Court.

The second federal legislative body, the Bundesrat, cannot be dissolved.


Dáil Éireann (the Irish Lower House) can be dissolved by the President, on the advise of the Taoiseach. The President may only deny such a dissolution if the Taoiseach has lost the confidence of the Dáil, through a vote of no confidence (or, it could be argued, after a Budget or other important bill has failed to pass). This has never happened, and, in the past, Taoisigh have requested dissolutions before votes of no confidence have taken place, so as to force a General Election rather than a handover of Government. A Dáil must be dissolved, and then a General Election held, within five years of its first meeting.

There are two notable instances where the President did not dissolve Dáil Éireann: 1989 and 1994. In the first instance, the newly-elected Dáil failed to elect a Taoiseach when it first met (and at a number of meetings afterwards). The incumbent Taoiseach, Charles Haughey was obliged constitutionally to resign, however he initially refused to. He eventually tendered his resignation to President Hillery and remained on as Taoiseach in an acting capacity. At the fourth attempt, the Dáil eventually re-elected Haughey Taoiseach. Had he requested a dissolution, it would've likely been accepted by the President on the grounds that the Dáil could not form a Government, but the President would have also been within his rights to refuse it. It is thought that Haughey chose not to do so and instead go into a historic coalition because of poor opinion polls showing his Fianna Fáil party would lose seats in a second General Election.

In 1994, Albert Reynolds resigned as Taoiseach when the Labour Party left a coalition with Fianna Fáil. He resigned as Taoiseach but did not request a dissolution, in order that his successor in Fianna Fáil might forge a new coalition with Labour. Labour however went into Government with the main opposition party, Fine Gael. It has been speculated that the President at the time, Mary Robinson, would not have allowed a dissolution had Reynolds requested one. To date, the President has never refused a dissolution.

One feature of the Irish system is that although the Dáil is dissolved, Seanad Éireann (the Irish Senate) is not, and may continue to meet during an election campaign for the Dáil. However as many members of the Seanad are typically involved in election campaigns for the Dáil, the Seanad does not typically meet often, if at all, once the Dáil is dissolved. A general election for the Seanad must take place within 90 days of the election of the new Dáil.


The House of Representatives of the Japanese Diet can be dissolved at any time by the Emperor on the advice of the Prime Minister. The 1947 Constitution specifies that Representatives serve a four-year term while the entire body stands for the election upon dissolution. However, the dissolution on 9 December 1976 is the only dissolution to this date that occurred at the end of the four-year term; all other parliaments have been dissolved prematurely. It is also important to note that the Emperor cannot deny the request for dissolution of parliament; the Constitution states that he must follow all advices of the Prime Minister.

The House of Councillors, however, cannot be dissolved. Its members serve a fixed six-year term, with half of the seats (and the position of Speaker of the Councillors) up for re-election every three years.

New Zealand

The Parliament can be dissolved or prorogued at any time in its 3-year term by the Governor-General, usually on the advice of the Prime Minister.

United Kingdom

Parliament of the United Kingdom

The Prime Minister may ask the monarch to dissolve Parliament at any time, though it must be dissolved five years after the first sitting of parliament following the last general election as that is the maximum term a parliament may sit by virtue of the Septennial Act 1715, as amended by the Parliament Act 1911, which reduced the Septennial Act's seven-year limit.

The time for which Parliament can sit without dissolution can be extended with the approval of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords; however, legislation to extend the life of parliament is the sole matter over which the Lords still retain a veto.

Scottish Parliament

Under the Scotland Act 1998, ordinary general elections for the Scottish Parliament are held on the first Thursday in May every four years (1999, 2003, 2007 etc.) The date of the poll may be varied by up to one month either way by the monarch on the proposal of the Presiding Officer.

If the Parliament itself resolves that it should be dissolved (with at least two-thirds of the Members voting in favour), or if the Parliament fails to nominate one of its members to be First Minister within certain time limits, the Presiding Officer proposes a date for an extraordinary general election and the Parliament is dissolved by the monarch by royal proclamation.

National Assembly for Wales

Under the Government of Wales Act 2006, ordinary general elections for the National Assembly are held on the first Thursday in May every four years.


According to the Romanian Constitution, voted in 1991 and revised in 2003, the President may dissolve the Parliament only if the Parliament rejects two consecutive candidates proposed by the President for the function of Prime Minister. Both houses can be dissolved. No dissolution of the Parliament has taken place in Romania since 1991.


The dissolution of the Italian parliament (which last, accordingly to the 1948 Constitution, 5 years) and the calling of new general election is made by the President of the Republic, although the parliament may be extended by ordinary legislation. Since the Italian President is not legally responsible, the actual power of dissolution is in practice in the hand of the Government (for example in 2005 the former president of the Council of Ministes, Silvio Berlusconi decided the date of elections instead of the president of the Republic).

Russian Federation

Under Articles 111 and 117 of the Russian Constitution, the President of the Russian Federation may dissolve the State Duma if it either expresses no confidence in the Government or rejects his proposed candidate for Prime Minister three times. The power to dissolve the Duma was not exercised under the current constitution of 1993. Before the new constitution was enacted, President Boris Yeltsin had dissolved the Supreme Soviet of Russia during the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993,[1] although he did not have the formal constitutional powers to do so.


  1. ^ Yeltsin: shadow of a doubt - Boris Yeltsin | National Interest, The | Find Articles at

See also

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Dissolution of Parliament
by Robert Peel
The speech given by Robert Peel MP, British Prime Minister, justifying his acceptance of the premiership and the dissolution of the previous government. Given in the House of Commons on 24 November 1834.

I shall in the first place, refer to the circumstances under which the present Government was constituted. I shall defend the course which I thought it my duty to advise the King to pursue at the period of its formation and give accurate delineations of the measures which it is the intention of his Majesty's Government to introduce; those explanations the House has a right to require, and I should shrink from that duty which is imposed upon me if I did not avow a willing disposition to afford them. I stand here as the Minister of the Crown - placed in this situation by no act of my own - in consequence of no dexterous combination with those to whose principles I have been uniformly opposed, and which whom I might frequently have made, had I been so inclined, a temporary alliance for the purpose of embarrassing the former Government. I stand here in fulfilment of a public duty, shrinking from no responsibility, with no arrogant pretensions of defying or disregarding the opinions of the majority of this House, yet still resolved to persevere to the last, so far as is consistent with the honour of a public man, in maintaining the prerogative of the Crown, and in fulfilling those duties which I owe to my King and to my country.

In vindication of the course which I have pursued, it is necessary that I should refer to the circumstances which preceded the dissolution of the last Government. I have been asked whether I would impose on the King in his personal capacity, the responsibility of the dismissal of that Government? In answer to this question, I will at once declare, that I claim all the responsibility which properly belongs to me as a public man; I am responsible for the assumption of the duty which I have undertaken, and, if you please, I am, by my acceptance of office, responsible for the removal of the late Government. God forbid that I should endeavour to transfer any responsibility which ought properly to devolve upon me to that high and sacred authority which the constitution of this country recognises as incapable of error, and every act of which it imputes to the advice of responsible counsellors. But whilst I disclaim all intention of shrinking from that responsibility, which one situated as I am, must necessarily incur; I must at the same time unhesitatingly assert, what is perfectly consistent with the truth, and what is due to respect for my own character, - namely, that I was not, and under no circumstances would I have been party to any secret counselling or instigating the removal of any Government. But although I have not taken any part in procuring the dismissal of the late Government, although I could not from circumstances which are notorious to the world, hold communication with any of those with whom I have now the honour to act, much less with the highest authority in the State, as to the propriety or policy of that dismissal, still I do conceive that by the assumption of office, the responsibility of the change which has taken place is transferred from the Crown to its advisers; and I am ready - be the majority against me what it may - to take all the responsibility which constitutionally belongs to me and to submit to any consequences to which the assumption of that responsibility may expose me...(Portion of speech omitted)

I now come to the subject of the dissolution of the late Parliament, I have been asked whether I take upon myself the responsibility of the proceeding, and without a moment's hesitation I answer that I do take upon myself the responsibility of the dissolution. The moment I returned to this country to undertake the arduous duties now imposed upon me, I did determine that I would leave no constitutional effort untried to enable me satisfactorily to discharge the trust reposed in me. I did fear that if I had met the late Parliament, I should have been obstructed in my course, and obstructed in a manner, and at a season, which might have precluded an appeal to the people. But it is unnecessary for me to assign reasons for this opinion. Was it not the constant boast that the late Parliament had unbounded confidence in the late Government? And why should those who declare they are ready to condemn me without a hearing, be surprised at my appeal to the judgment of another, and a higher, and a fairer tribunal - the public sense of the people? Notwithstanding the specious reasons which have been usually assigned for the dissolution I believe it will be found, that whenever there has occurred an extensive change of Government, a dissolution of Parliament has followed. In the year 1784, a change took place in the Government, Mr. Pitt was appointed to the office of Prime Minister, and in the same year a dissolution took place. Again, in 1806, when the Administration of Lords Grey and Grenville was formed, the Parliament, which had only sat four years, was shortly after the assumption of power by those Noblemen dissolved. It was on that occasion urged, that a negotiation with France having failed, it became necessary to refer to the sense of the country, but I never will admit that the failure of the negotiation with France could constitute any sufficient grounds for the dissolution of a Parliament which there was not the slightest reason to believe was adverse to the continuance of the war, or dissatisfied with the conduct of the negotiation. In the year 1807, another change took place in the Government by the accession of Mr. Perceval to power, and then again a dissolution immediately took place. In the year 1830, Earl Grey was called into office as Prime Minister, and shortly after the vote in the committee on the Reform Bill, the Parliament which had been elected in 1830, was dissolved in 1831. Hence it appears that in the case of the four last extensive changes in the Government, those changes have been followed by a dissolution of the then existing Parliament. The present, however, is I believe to be the first occasion upon which the House of Commons has ever proceeded to record its dissatisfaction at the exercise of the prerogative of dissolution.


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