minority government

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One which fails to command the guaranteed support of a majority of the members of a legislature. Minority governments have been judged to lead to political instability and ineffective government on the evidence of Germany during the Weimar Republic (1919–33), France during the Fourth Republic (1946–58), and Italy between 1945 and the 1980s. In each case there was a rapid turnover of governments leading ultimately to a crisis of government legitimacy. The experience of minority governments in Scandinavia, notably in Denmark, presents alternative evidence of relative success, suggesting that the implications of minority government are dependent upon the underlying political culture. Since the First World War Britain has experienced minority government only in 1924, 1929–31, 1974, and 1976–9, in each case led by the Labour Party. However, the adoption of mixed member proportional electoral systems for the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales since 1999 has increased the likelihood not only of coalition governments but also of minority government where parties cannot agree majority coalitions. There have already been minority Labour administrations in Wales in 1999–2000 and 2005–7, and a minority Scottish National Party administration in Scotland from 2007.

Jonathan Bradbury


Subjects: Politics.

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