Dissolution of Parliament

Overview

What? 

  • The power of dissolution is the power to end the term of office of a parliament (or other legislative body) so as to cause new elections to take place. Parliaments are compulsorily dissolved at the end of their term of office. In many countries, a premature dissolution, before the scheduled end of Parliament’s term, is also possible in certain situations.

Why?

  • The ability to dissolve Parliament before the end of its term of office is a way of breaking deadlocks within Parliament, or between Parliament and the Government, by appealing to the people. Depending on the constitutional rules in each country, dissolution may also be used to renew Government’s mandate, for example after a change of Prime Minister.

How?

  • The dissolution of parliament is a powerful political tool. The location and extent of the dissolution power will therefore affect the overall balance of power in the polity. If a broad power of dissolution is vested in the head of state or cabinet, then the political system will tend to concentrate powers in those institutions; if the dissolution power is limited, or is exercised by parliament itself, then parliament will be a relatively stronger institution.

Where?

  • Most parliamentary and semi-presidential systems allow for the premature dissolution of parliament in some circumstances—although the circumstances in which this is possible range from an almost unfettered power of dissolution to a very limited power that can only be used in specific cases. Premature dissolution is rare in presidential systems.