Dissolution of parliament

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In parliamentary and some semi-presidential systems, a dissolution of parliament is the dispersal of a legislature at the call of an election.


Usually, a legislature in such a system must be dissolved on the expiration of a constitutionally specified term. Early dissolutions are allowed in many jurisdictions.[ clarification needed ]


The House of Representatives, but not the Senate, can be dissolved at any time by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister. The term of the House expires three years after its first meeting if not dissolved earlier. The Governor-General can dissolve the Senate only by also dissolving the House of Representatives (a double dissolution) and only in limited circumstances spelled out in the Constitution.

There is a convention that the Governor-General only orders a dissolution on the advice of the Prime Minister. This convention was demonstrated in the dismissal of prime minister Gough Whitlam by the Governor General Sir John Kerr in 1975. Kerr claimed that dissolving the House of Representatives was his duty and "the only democratic and constitutional solution" to the political deadlock over supply. [1] Whitlam refused to advise Kerr to call an election, and Kerr replaced him with a caretaker Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser. Fraser promptly advised a double dissolution, and Sir John acted in accordance with that advice.

Parliament of Victoria

Unlike the Commonwealth Parliament, the Premier and Governor of Victoria have very little discretion in dissolving the Parliament of Victoria. 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.


In Belgium, dissolution occurs either by royal order or by law upon a Declaration of Revision of the Constitution (Art. 195 Const.). Since the First World War, elections have always been called with either of these actions, except for 1929. A third scenario, dissolution by law due to a vacant throne, has never occurred.

Dissolution by law dissolves both the Chamber of Representatives and the Senate. A royal order originally could dissolve the Chamber, the Senate, or both. However, the last dissolution of one chamber only happened in 1884; both chambers were always dissolved together since then. With the 1993 constitutional reforms, only the Chamber could be dissolved, with the Senate being automatically dissolved as well. Since 2014 constitutional reforms, only the Chamber can be dissolved, as the Senate is no longer directly elected.

After dissolution, elections must be held within 40 days, and the new chambers must convene within three months (within two months from 1831 to 2014).

Parliaments of the regions and communities cannot be dissolved; they have fixed five-year terms.


The House of Commons, but not the Senate, can be dissolved at any time by the Queen of Canada or by Governor General, conventionally on the advice of the Prime Minister. In the case of a constitutional crisis, the Crown may act on its own with no advice from another body of the Parliament. 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, Québec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories have established fixed election dates.

Czech Republic

The Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic may be dissolved by the president when at least one condition specified by the constitution is fulfilled. The Senate can never be dissolved. After the dissolution, snap elections are to be held no later than after 60 days.

The chamber can be dissolved if

Since the formation of the Czech Republic, the Chamber of deputies was only dissolved once. In 2013, by passing a motion of dissolution after a lengthy crisis following the fall of Petr Nečas' government,

Before such practice was made possible by amending the Constitution in 2009, Chamber of deputies was once dissolved in 1998 by passing a special constitutional act, which shortened its term, but such practice was blocked by Constitutional court, when it was tried again in 2009 [2] [ circular reference ]


The government can call an election to the Folketing at any time, and is obliged to call one before the incumbent membership's four-year terms expire. However, the Folketing is never formally dissolved, and it retains its legislative power until new members have been elected. In practice the Folketing will cancel all its ongoing business when an election is called, to give the members time to campaign, but it can reconvene in case a national emergency requires urgent legislation before the election takes place.


Per Section 60 of the Constitution of Estonia, regular elections to the Riigikogu, Estonia's unicameral parliament, are held on the first Sunday of March in the fourth year following the preceding parliamentary election. However, the Riigikogu can be dissolved by the President of Estonia and fresh elections called prior to the expiration of its four-year term if one of the following four circumstances should occur:

  1. Following the resignation of the outgoing Government, a new Government is unable to be formed according to the procedure established by Section 89 of the Constitution.
  2. The Riigikogu passes a motion of no confidence in the Government or the Prime Minister, and the Government proposes (within three days of the no-confidence motion) that the President call an early election.
  3. The Riigikogu submits a proposed law to a referendum, and that proposed law fails to receive a majority of the votes cast in the referendum, per Section 105 of the Constitution.
  4. The Riigikogu fails to approve a national budget within two months of the beginning of the financial year, per Section 119 of the Constitution. [3]

In the first, third, and fourth cases above, the President must call an early election. In the second case, however, a Government that has lost the confidence of the Riigikogu is not obliged to request an early election. This occurred in 2016, when Prime Minister Taavi Rõivas lost a no confidence motion. His government resigned, and President Kersti Kaljulaid nominated Jüri Ratas to form the next government without an election taking place [4] [5] .

Likewise, if a Government loses a no confidence vote and requests an early election, the President can refuse the Government's request if it appears a successor government could command the support of the Riigikogu.

As of 2018, every convocation of the Riigikogu has run its full term.


The President of Finland can dissolve the parliament and call for an early election. As per the version of the 2000 constitution currently in use, the president can do this only upon proposal by the Prime Minister and after consultations with the parliamentary groups while the Parliament is in session. In prior versions of the constitution, the President had the power to do this unilaterally.


Under the French Fourth Republic formed after World War II, there was originally a weak role for the President of France. However, when Charles de Gaulle, who favored a presidential government with a strong executive, [6] was invited to form a new government and constitution during the May 1958 crisis he directed the constitutional committee chaired by Michel Debré to increase the authority of the presidency, including providing the ability to dissolve the National Assembly. [7]

Under Article 12 of the 1958 French Constitution, the National Assembly can be dissolved by the President at any time after consultation with the Prime Minister and the presidents of the two chambers of Parliament. After the declaration, new elections must be held within twenty to forty days. The National Assembly elected following such a dissolution cannot be dissolved within the first year of its term. [8]

A dissolution of the National Assembly most recently occurred when President Jacques Chirac dissolved the National Assembly before the 1997 French legislative election in order to secure a new parliament more sympathetic to his policies, which ultimately failed when the opposition Socialist Party won the election against Chirac's party the Rally for the Republic. [9] [10]


According to the Basic Law, 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 Willy Brandt, Helmut Kohl, and Gerhard 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. No president has yet refused a dissolution of the Bundestag when the choice came to him.

The Bundestag is automatically dissolved four years after the last General Election, and most Bundestags have lasted the full term.

The second federal legislative body, the Bundesrat, cannot be dissolved, as its members are the federal states' governments as such rather than specific individuals.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong the Chief Executive, who is the head of the territory and head of government, has the power to dissolve the Legislative Council if it fails to pass the appropriation bill or any other important bill, or if it passes a bill but he or she refuses to give assent. In the latter case, if the Legislative Council passes the bill again with a two-thirds majority, the Chief Executive has to resign. This has not happened since 1997. Before 1997, the Legislative Council could be dissolved at the Governor's pleasure.


Legislative power is constitutionally vested in the Parliament of India of which the President is the head, to facilitate the law-making process as per the Constitution (Article 78, Article 86, etc.). The President summons both the Houses (the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha) of the Parliament and prorogues them. He can dissolve the Lok Sabha under Article 85 (2) (b)


Since the third amendment of the Constitution of Indonesia enacted on 18 August 2001 by the MPR, the President can not dissolve or freeze the DPR. Written in the article 7C, this was done after President Abdurrahman Wahid attempted to did so on 23 July 2001 through a presidential decree, prompting his impeachment to be rapidly finalized that night.

Republic of Ireland

The Dáil Éireann (the lower house of the Oireachtas) can be dissolved by the President, on the advice of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister). 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 when 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 afterward). The incumbent Taoiseach Charles Haughey was obliged constitutionally to resign, however, he initially refused to. He eventually tendered his resignation to President Patrick Hillery and remained as Taoiseach in an acting capacity. At the fourth attempt, the Dáil eventually re-elected Haughey as Taoiseach. Had he requested a dissolution, it would probably have 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 but instead to 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, 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, no President has ever refused a dissolution.

One feature of the Irish system is that although the Dáil is dissolved, the Seanad Éireann (the 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.


In Italy the President has the authority to dissolve Parliament, and consequently call for new elections, until which the powers of the old parliament are extended. However, the President loses this authority during the last six months of his seven years term, unless that period coincides at least in part with the final six months of the Parliament's five years term, as stated in Article 88 of the Constitution: [11]

"In consultation with the presiding officers of Parliament, the President may dissolve one or both Houses of Parliament. The President of the Republic may not exercise such right during the final six months of the presidential term unless said period coincides in full or in part with the final six months of Parliament."

In practice, after the resignation of the Government, which can be freely decided by the Prime Minister, or can be caused by a vote of no confidence by the Parliament, or after general elections, the President has to consult the speakers of the Houses, the delegations of the parliamentary groups and senators for life trying to find someone who might be appointed Prime Minister and lead a new Government with the confidence of both the Houses. The President dissolves Parliament only if the groups fail to find an agreement to form a majority coalition. Therefore, the actual power of dissolution is in practice shared also by the Parliament, political parties and by the outgoing Prime Minister, if he still has an influence on them.

Since the Constitution has been in force (1948), Italian Parliament was dissolved 8 times before its 5-year term: in 1972, 1976, 1979, 1983, 1987, 1994, 1996, and 2008.


In Israel, early elections to the Knesset can be called before the scheduled date of the third Tuesday in the Jewish month of Cheshvan (late September through early November) four years following the previous elections if the Prime Minister calls early elections with Presidential approval due to gridlock, if no government is formed after 42 days of consultation with parties' floor leaders in the Knesset, if the budget is not approved by the Knesset by March 31 (3 months after the start of the fiscal year), or if half of the Knesset members vote in favor of early elections. This call for early elections is legally termed "Dissolution of the Knesset".

However, strictly speaking, the Knesset is only truly dissolved  in the sense of being unconstituted and all MKs losing their seats  automatically 14 days after elections, simultaneously with the start of the newly-elected Knesset's term.


In Japan, the House of Representatives of the National Diet (parliament) can be dissolved at any time by the Emperor, on the advice of the Cabinet, headed by the Prime Minister. The Constitution of Japan specifies that all members of the House can serve up to a four-year term. So far, however, parliaments have been dissolved prematurely with the exception of the 9 December 1976 dissolution. [12]

The House of Councillors however, cannot be dissolved but only closed, and may, in times of national emergency, be convoked for an emergency session. Its members serve a fixed six-year term, with half of the seats, and the Speaker of the Councillors, up for re-election every three years. [12]

The Emperor both convokes the Diet and dissolves the House of Representatives, but only does so on the advice of the Cabinet.

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.


According to the Constitution of Norway, the Storting (parliament) cannot be dissolved before serving its full four-year term.


Under the Peruvian Constitution of 1993, the President of Peru has the authority to dissolve the Congress of Peru if a vote of no-confidence is passed three times by the legislative body, and has four months to call for new parliamentary elections or faces impeachment.

The Congress of Peru has been dissolved twice; once in 1992 by President Alberto Fujimori who performed an auto-coup on April 1992 by dismantling both the legislative and judicial branches of government, and once by incumbent President Martín Vizcarra, who dissolved Congress in October 2019 in an effort to end the 2017-19 Peruvian political crisis.

Both of the Presidents were immediately impeached and removed from office by the dissolved Congress, thus being illegitimate.


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.


Under Articles 111 and 117 of the Russian Constitution [13] the President may dissolve the State Duma, the lower house of the Federal Assembly, if it either expresses no confidence in the Government of Russia twice in two months or rejects his proposed candidate for the Prime Minister three times in a row. At the same time, the President cannot dissolve the Federation Council, the upper house of the Federal Parliament. The power to dissolve the State Duma was not exercised under the current constitution of 1993. Before the new constitution was enacted, President Boris Yeltsin had dissolved the Congress of People's Deputies and Supreme Soviet of Russia during the Russian constitutional crisis of 1993, [14] although he did not have the formal constitutional powers to do so.


In Spain, legislatures last 4 years, so after that time, the King of Spain dissolves the Cortes Generales. However, the Prime Minister of Spain, with previous deliberation on the cabinet, can dissolve the Cortes. As an exception, if after 2 months of an unsuccessful president-investment, there is no president; the King dissolves the Cortes.

United Kingdom

Parliament of the United Kingdom

Under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, as amended, Parliament is dissolved automatically 25 working days ahead of a general election. Elections ordinarily take place five years after the previous general election, but may be held sooner if the Prime Minister loses a vote of confidence, or if two-thirds of the members of the House of Commons vote in favor of an early election.

Scottish Parliament

Under section 2 of 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. However, section 4 of the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 postponed the general election that would have been held on 7 May 2015 to 5 May 2016 to avoid it coinciding with the UK General election fixed under that Act. [15]

Under section 3 of the Scotland Act 1998, 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 Wales Act 2014, ordinary general elections to the National Assembly are held the first Thursday in May every five years. This extension from a four- to five-year term was designed to prevent Assembly elections clashing with general elections to the Westminster Parliament subsequent to the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

United States

In 1774 after the Boston Tea Party, the Massachusetts Bay Province's legislature was dismissed under the Massachusetts Government Act and the colony was placed under martial law under the command of General Thomas Gage. In practice, the majority of the colony came under the de facto control of the unrecognized Massachusetts Provincial Congress, and General Gage's attempts to suppress widespread dissent along the colonists directly lead to the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the beginning of the Revolutionary War. [16]

The United States Constitution does not allow for the dissolution of Congress, instead allowing for prorogation by the President of the United States when Congress is unable to agree on a time of adjournment. The Founding Fathers agreed on the need to limit presidential authority to prevent a return to autocracy. [17] In Federalist No. 69 , Alexander Hamilton stressed that unlike the King of Great Britain the President does not have the authority to dismiss Congress at his preference. [18] To date, the presidential authority to prorogue Congress has never been used, although in 2020 President Donald Trump threatened to use it in order to make recess appointments.


The Bolivarian Constitution of Venezuela authorizes, through various articles, the President of the Republic to dissolve the National Assembly.

Article 236 of the Constitution establishes which are the functions to be performed by the first national president; Paragraph 23 of this section states that one of the powers of the president is: "Dissolve the National Assembly in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution."

In statement 240 explains that will dissolve the Parliament when in a same constitutional period the Assembly approve the removal of the vice president of the country by means of censure, three times.

It is also clarified that the decree of dissolution of the Venezuelan congress entails the call for elections for a new legislature, which must be held in the next 60 days. In addition, this section indicates that the Parliament can not be dissolved during the last year of its constitutional period.

In the 2017 Venezuelan constitutional crisis, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice dissolved the National Assembly and transferred its legislative powers to itself. The decision was viewed by the Venezuelan opposition and many members of the international community, including the United States, Mercosur, and the Organization of American States, as a self-coup by President Nicolás Maduro. After several days, the decision was reversed on the advice of President Maduro. [19] [20] [21]

See also

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  1. Sir John Kerr’s Statement of Reasons for the dismissal of Gough Whitlam, issued by Government House on November 11, 1975
  2. cs:Ústavní zákon o zkrácení pátého volebního období Poslanecké sněmovny
  3. https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/ee/521052015001/consolide
  4. https://news.err.ee/119642/prime-minister-loses-no-confidence-vote-forced-to-resign
  5. https://news.err.ee/119804/president-appoints-juri-ratas-government
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  13. Constitution of Russia. Chapter 6. The Government of the Russian Federation
  14. Yeltsin: shadow of a doubt - Boris Yeltsin | National Interest, The | Find Articles at BNET.com
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  19. Editor, Rafael Romo, Senior Latin American Affairs. "Venezuela's high court dissolves National Assembly". CNN. Retrieved 2020-04-16.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
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  21. Sanchez, Hannah Dreier and Fabiola. "Venezuela high court reverses move to strip congress' power". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2020-04-16.