Changing the Leader – The Constitutional Conventions Concerning the Resignation of Prime Ministers and Premiers

Federal Law Review, Vol. 39, pp. 329-360, 2011

Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 12/13

33 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2012 Last revised: 28 Feb 2012

Anne Twomey

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: February 23, 2012

Abstract

When a Prime Minister or Premier loses the support of his or her own party and resigns, numerous constitutional issues arise. Does the resignation entail that of the entire government, or can there simply be a change of leader? Is the Governor-General, in appointing a new Prime Minister, obliged to act on the advice of the outgoing leader, or is it a matter of discretion, as governed by convention? What if a Prime Minister who has lost theparty leadership refuses to resign as Prime Minister? Can or should a Governor-General dismiss a Prime Minister who has lost party support if there has not yet been a vote of no confidence in Parliament? What if the Governor-General is asked to prorogue Parliament to avoid a vote of no confidence? What if a Prime Minister who has lost the confidence of his or her party seeks to reassert power by advising the Governor-General to dismiss Ministers or dissolve Parliament? This article addresses all these questions, drawing on precedents in Australia, Canada, Nigeria and Malaysia.

Keywords: Constitutional conventions, Parliament, Prime Minister, Premier, dismissal, reserve powers, Governor-General, resignation, Cabinet, vote of no confidence, prorogation, elections

JEL Classification: K10, K30

Suggested Citation

Twomey, Anne, Changing the Leader – The Constitutional Conventions Concerning the Resignation of Prime Ministers and Premiers (February 23, 2012). Federal Law Review, Vol. 39, pp. 329-360, 2011; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 12/13. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2009686

Anne Twomey (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006
Australia

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