In some countries (e.g. Sweden), the power to dissolve the Parliament is explicitly vested in the Government (or "Cabinet" in other countries).

In reality, how does a Cabinet actually order the dissolution? Do all Cabinet Ministers have to sign a document to legally approve the decision? Or does the Prime Minister ultimately calls the shots, while other Cabinet Ministers have no choice but to follow along?

In a broader context, when a Constitution vests certain power in the Cabinet, what is the actual procedure the Cabinet must follow to exercise such power?

3 Answers 3


In Sweden, and other systems with a "government" or "cabinet", the discussions in the cabinet are not public. Minutes are kept, but kept secret. The internal procedures work by consensus, with the Prime Minister having a leading role in forming the consensus. A vote is not normally held, and if it were, it would not be public. Instead there is discussion which leads either to a position which all members of the Cabinet can agree on. Or which all members will agree to publically support (even if they privately disagree). Or those members that cannot publically support the position must resign.

So if the Prime Minister wants to dissolve the Riksdag, he or she brings this as a matter for discussion to the Government. The ministers can all give their opinion and the Prime Minister will try to persuade all the other ministers to agree. If there is no consensus (as recognised by the Prime Minister who chairs the meeting) then nothing happens. If there is a consensus (again as recognised by the PM) with a few dissenting voices then they know that they have two options: support the PM or resign. The PM then transmits instructs the Riksdag to dissolve and hold an Extraordinary Election (as the PM is a member of the Riksdag, this can be done from the floor).

In this way, the cabinet is like the Senior Leadership Team in a school or the Board of a Company. They meet, discuss, and the descisions are made by concensus, not voting. And as at school or company, The PM, like the School Principal, or CEO of a company has a disproportionate amount of influence.


That's going to depend on the specific country: many countries have their own quirks either through convention or legidlation, for historical reasons.

For Ireland, since you mentioned that specifically, the power to dissolve parliament resides with the president, not the prime minister.

The formal powers and functions of the President are prescribed in the Constitution. Many of the powers of the President can only be exercised on the advice of the Government, but the President has absolute discretion in other areas.

From the Official site of the Irish presidency : Constitutional Role

The President's powers include:

• Appointment of the Taoiseach, members of the Government, judges and other officials;

• Summoning and dissolving the Dáil, and convening the Oireachtas;

Later on on the same page

Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. The National Parliament (Oireachtas) consists of the President and two Houses: Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (the Senate) whose functions and powers are laid out in the Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann).

The President summons and dissolves Dáil Éireann on the advice of the Taoiseach.

If a Taoiseach no longer has the support of the majority of Dáil Éireann, the President may choose to call for fresh elections, by signing a proclamation dissolving the Dáil. However, the President may also refuse to dissolve the Dáil, in which case members of the Dáil must nominate an alternative Government. Since the foundation of the State, this power of refusal has never been exercised.

Following a general election, Dáil Éireann is summoned by the President, on the advice of the Taoiseach. The President must follow the advice of the Taoiseach.

So in theory the president has the freedom to decide whether or not to dissolve parliament. In practice no president ever has and has followed the advice of the Taoiseach (prime minister), so what would happen if the president overruled the Taoiseach, the cabinet was publically divided, or the president unilaterally announced the dissolution its unknowable, and would probably depend on the circumstances.

The UK has a similar system, with the power to dissolve parliament resting purely with the monarch. But in practice, the monarch will always follow the advice of the government, as expressed in a personal meeting with the prime minister.

So in reality the Irish president had more constitutional basis to act independently than the British monarch does in their respective systems, despite their analogous positions in their governments.

  • I vaguely remember that it did happen in a country with similar rules that the President chose not to dissolve Parliament, essentially saying "I don't believe you have exhausted all options in finding a compromise, work harder." I'd imagine it would work out similarly in Ireland, if the President truly believes the Taoiseach would be able to form a government by, for example, relaxing their stance on a controversial issue and bringing in a new party into the coalition. Oct 3, 2020 at 15:17
  • The power to dissolve Parliament in the UK now rests solely with the House of Commons. Oct 3, 2020 at 16:48
  • @JörgWMittag: Canada's GG decided to prorogue parliament in 2008 because of a political dispute (opposition parties wanted to bring down the minority government, ~6 weeks after the election), which is similar although not identical (the PM wanted a prorogation). The opposite situation happened in Australia in 1975. The PM was unable to get a supply bill through the Senate (upper house, and controlled by the opposition at the time) due to a series of political scandals. The GG eventually fired the PM and called an election.
    – Kevin
    Oct 4, 2020 at 5:55

In Sweden, the power to dissolve Parliament runs both ways. Parliament can force the Prime Minister and cabinet to resign by calling for a vote of no confidence. If the cabinet loses the vote, the cabinet is dissolved and a new Prime Minister candidate is selected by the Speaker of the Riksdag. The candidate gets to select a cabinet and the Parliament votes on the cabinet. If the Speaker is unable to find a Prime Minister that the Parliament approves of (after four unsuccessful votes), there will be a new general election.

The Prime Minister can counter by dissolving parliament before the vote, in which case a new general election would be scheduled as soon as possible. After the general election, the Speaker of the Riksdag would name a new candidate for Prime Minister who would be allowed to form a cabinet that has the support of the Parliament.

It's not an asymmetric power. They can each dissolve each other if they lose confidence in the other or feel that the other is no longer representing the will of the people.


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