Dissolution of parliament

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In parliamentary systems, a dissolution of parliament is the dispersal of a legislature at the call of an election.

Usually there is a maximum length of a legislature, and a dissolution must happen after that time. Early dissolutions are allowed in many jurisdictions.


The United Kingdom

Parliament of the United Kingdom

The Prime Minister may ask the Queen for a dissolution of Parliament at any time, though it must be dissolved five years after the last general election as that is the maximum term a parliament may sit by virtue of the Septennial Act 1715 (the original 7-year limit was reduced in 1911).

Scottish Parliament

Under 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 Queen on the proposal of the Presiding Officer.

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 of Scotland within certain time limits, the Presiding Officer proposes a date for an extraordinary general election and the Parliament is dissolved by the Queen by royal proclamation.

The Republic of Ireland

The Oireachtas can be dissolved by the President if there is a vote of no confidence in the Taoiseach, but the president may refuse to dissolve it thus preventing an election and allowing the opposition leader to form a government.

The Federal Republic of Germany

A dissolution can only happen if the Chancellor loses a vote of confidence, although in 1982, Helmut Kohl deliberately lost one in order that there could be fresh elections. A similar vote happened in 2005 as a means for Chancellor Schröder to ask for early elections.


The parliament can be dissolved at any time by the Governor-General of Canada on the advice of the Prime Minister. If it sits for a full 5 years it is automatically dissolved.

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