It it uncommon to have a Minority government ?
Posted on November 14th, 2018

minority government, or minority cabinet or minority parliament, is a cabinet formed in a parliamentary system when a political party or coalition of parties does not have a majority of overall seats in the parliament. It is sworn into office, with or without the formal support of other parties, to enable a government to be formed. Under such a government, legislation can only be passed with the support of enough other members of the legislature to provide a majority, encouraging multi-partisanship.

A minority government tends to be much less stable than a majority government because if they can unite for the purpose, opposing parliamentary members have the numbers to vote against legislation, or even bring down the government with a vote of no confidence.

In most Westminster system nations, each constituency elects one member of parliament by simple plurality voting. This system heavily biases the vote towards increasing the number of seats of the top two parties and reducing the seats of smaller parties, a principle known in political science as Duverger’s law, and thus minority governments are relatively uncommon. Advocates of this system see this as one of its advantages. A party with less than 40% of the popular vote can often win an outright majority of the seats. (For instance, in the 2005 UK General Election, the governing Labour party won by a majority of 66 seats in the House of Commons with only 35.2% of the popular vote.) If support for some parties is regionally concentrated, however, then Duverger’s law applies separately to each region, and so it is quite possible for no party to be sufficiently dominant in each region so as to receive a majority of the seats. This was the situation in Canada in the 20042006, and 2008 federal elections, with no party obtaining a majority due in part to the dominance of the Bloc Québécois in the province of Quebec.

There have been few occasions since 1900 when a single party has not commanded a parliamentary majority. The 2010–2015 Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government was the first of its type in Britain since the National Government between 1931 and 1945.

The Labour Party, led by Harold Wilson, formed a minority government for seven months after the General Election of February 1974. That situation lasted until the prime minister called another election in October that year, following which the Labour Government obtained a tiny majority of three.[1]

The following administration also became a minority government after the collapse of the Lib–Lab pact in 1977, and the then British Prime Minister James Callaghan’s Government fell in March 1979 as the result of a vote of no confidence which was carried by a single vote.

A minority Government held power in the UK between December 1996 and the general election in May 1997. The Conservative Party, led by John Major, had won the 1992 General Election with an absolute majority of 21 seats over all other parties. That majority was progressively whittled away through defections and by-elections defeats, the most notable of the latter including those in NewburySouth East Staffordshire and Wirral South, resulting in the eventual loss of the Major government’s majority in Parliament. However, the Conservatives maintained support from Northern Ireland‘s Ulster Unionist Party and Democratic Unionist Party.

Westminster and the British media tend to perceive minority governments as unstable and ineffective, possibly because recent examples of minority governments (Callaghan and Major) occurred as the result of governments in decline.[2]

In the 2010 General Election, the Conservatives won the most seats and votes, but only a minority of seats in parliament. There was some discussion after the election of the possibility of creating a Conservative minority government and, because the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown had the first opportunity to form a government, there were also talks about creating some sort of alliance between the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and other smaller parties. However Brown waived his right, acknowledging that because the Conservative Party had won the largest number of seats in the House of Commons, it should have the first opportunity to form a government. Further discussions then led to the establishment of a formal coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, which enabled the formation of a majority government, because it was thought that would ensure more stability.

In the 2017 General Election, the Conservatives won the most seats and votes, but lost their majority in the House of Commons. The Conservative Party, led by Theresa May, formed a minority government, with 317 seats, on 9 June 2017. On 10 June, the Prime Minister’s Office announced a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party which would see the DUP support the Conservative government on a confidence and supply arrangement.[3] However, the DUP later announced that no such deal had been reached.[4] This remained the case until 26 June 2017, when a deal was agreed and announced between the two parties.[5]

Canada[edit]

During the history of Canadian politics there have been twelve minority governments on the federal level, in eleven separate minority parliaments (there were two minority governments during the life of 15th Parliament). One of these minorities, the 14th Parliament, was only a minority for half of its duration owing to floor-crossings and by-elections. The tenth and eleventh were elected twice in Canadian federal elections of 2006 and again in the 2008 election. There have also been numerous minority governments in provincial legislatures, particularly in provinces such as Ontario where there are strong third parties.

At the federal level, the party which has won the most seats in a general election has formed the government in all but the 15th Parliament.[6] There have also been instances of parties which did not win a plurality forming the government at the provincial level (notably under David Peterson). For information about minority governments at both the federal and provincial levels see Minority governments in Canada.

Denmark[edit]

Since 1982 most of the coalition government in Denmark are in minority, that the minority government coalition need to make deals and reach support with the opposition parties.

Estonia[edit]

Estonia has had several minority governments. A minority cabinet can occur:

  1. when the governing coalition loses support due to a coalition member leaving the governing coalition (Vähi II and Ansip II cabinets);
  2. when MPs leave party factions (Ratas cabinet);
  3. when a minority government is appointed with additional parliamentary support (Tõnisson IV, Vähi Interim, Siimann and Kallas cabinets); or
  4. when the government is voted into office with a plurality and some MPs abstain from voting (Birk, Tõnisson II, Piip and Akel cabinets).

Additional support is possible also because MPs leaving a party faction are not allowed to officially join another faction until the next elections. A government can be a minority government either throughout its term or just a part of its term, usually the later part. A list of minority cabinets:

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