Hung parliament

Hung parliament

In Parliamentary systems, a hung parliament is one in which no one political party has an outright majority, and means it is most commonly equally balanced. This situation is normal in many legislatures with proportional representation such as Germany or Italy, or in legislatures with strong regional parties. In majoritarian chambers with weak regional parties, it is a rarity, as in these circumstances one party will usually hold enough seats to form a majority.

A hung parliament will force either a coalition government, a minority government or a dissolution of parliament. Frequent hung parliaments can result in smaller parties staying in power for decades as they switch support between the two or three major parties (this is what happened with the Free Democratic Party in West Germany prior to reunification).

The most recent hung parliament after a general election in the United Kingdom was the February 1974 general election, which lasted until the October election that year. Prior to that the last had been the elections of 1951 and 1929. Hung parliaments can also arise when slim government majorities are eroded by by-election defeats and defection of Members of Parliament to opposition parties. This happened in 1996 to the Conservative government of Sir John Major (1990-97) and in 1978 to the Labour government of James Callaghan (1976-79).

An alternative term for a hung parliament, preferred by the Liberal Democrats in the UK, is a balanced parliament.

The current Parliament of Canada is a hung parliament; however, the term is not used in Canada. Instead, the term minority government or minority parliament is used.


A hung Parliament inevitably leads to a period of uncertainty after an election, especially in countries that are not used to it. In the 1974 UK General Election, sitting Prime Minister Edward Heath refused at first to resign, attempting to build a coalition government despite winning fewer seats (though gaining more votes) than the then opposition Labour Party.

Much speculation has gone into whether the Liberal Democrats in the UK would support a Labour government if no party won a majority in the General Election. In such a situation, they could be "kingmakers", in that, as the centre party, they could choose to ally with either Labour or the Conservatives to form the next government, or decide to support specific measures of a minority government without entering a formal coalition. This issue has particular relevance in the current political climate of Britain. Fact|date=October 2008

Working majority

Sometimes although a parliament or assembly may be technically hung, the party in power can have a working majority. Such was the case in the National Assembly for Wales, where Labour lost their majority when Peter Law was expelled for standing against the official candidate in the 2005 Westminster election in the Blaenau Gwent constituency. When the Assembly was first elected on May 1, 2003, Labour won 30 seats. Plaid Cymru won 12, the Conservatives won 11, and the Lib Dems won 6 (an Independent candidate won a seat as well). When Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Plaid) was reelected as the presiding officer, this reduced the number of opposition AMs who could vote to 29, as the presiding officer only votes in the event of a tie, and even then not on party political lines. Thus Labour had a "working" majority of one seat. This was lost when Law ran in Blaenau Gwent [ [ Labour lose assembly majority as Law quits] , April 17, 2005.] .

ee also

*Minority government


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • hung parliament — UK US noun [countable] [singular hung parliament plural hung parliaments] a parliament in which no party has won enough seats to control the parliament and form the government Thesaurus: parliaments …   Useful english dictionary

  • hung parliament — n BrE a parliament in which no political party has more elected representatives than the others added together …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Hung parliament — Als hung parliament wird im englischsprachigen Raum die Situation bezeichnet, dass bei einer Parlamentswahl im Mehrheitswahlverfahren keine der beiden Parteien im Zweiparteiensystem eine Mehrheit erreicht. Während diese Situation in Ländern mit… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • hung parliament — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms hung parliament : singular hung parliament plural hung parliaments a parliament in which no party has won enough seats to control the parliament and form the government …   English dictionary

  • hung Parliament —    A hung Parliament is one where – in the aftermath of a general election – no party has won a majority of the seats. The outcome is uncertain, the differences between the party performances being not very substantial. In February 1974, when the …   Glossary of UK Government and Politics

  • hung parliament — /hʌŋ ˈpaləmənt/ (say hung pahluhmuhnt) noun a parliament in which, since no party has an overall majority of seats, no party is able alone to form a government capable of controlling parliament. {modelled on hung jury} …   Australian English dictionary

  • hung parliament — noun a parliament in which no single political party has an outright majority …   Wiktionary

  • hung parliament — noun (C) BrE a parliament in which no one political party has more elected representatives than the others added together …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • Parliament of Australia — 43rd Parliament Type Type …   Wikipedia

  • hung — past and past participle of HANG(Cf. ↑hang). ► ADJECTIVE 1) having no political party with an overall majority: a hung parliament. 2) (of a jury) unable to agree on a verdict. 3) (hung up) informal emotionally confused or disturbed …   English terms dictionary

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