As the December 12 general election gets closer and closer, speculation is rife over what the result could be.
If one party gains a majority it would keep things fairly simple. Or if there’s a hung parliament, we could see another coalition where two parties make a deal to form a majority together.
Another alternative is a minority government.
What is a minority government?
A minority government is a government formed by a political party that doesn’t have an overall majority of MPs in the House of Commons.
That means rather than form a coalition with another party, a party can decide to govern alone.
If a proposed government wins a confidence vote in parliament, it can become the government.
However, a minority government does need the support of MPs from other parties to pass any legislation. That’s still possible though, as other parties can support a government without actually being part of it.
But why would other parties support a minority government?
There could be a range of reasons.
The supporting party might think the resulting government is still the best option on the table - especially over going back to the polls.
It may also be a move designed to keep another party out of power.
Supporting a minority government might also enable smaller parties to negotiate some concessions, which makes it a worthwhile move.
Has the UK had a minority government before?
The UK has been operating with a minority government since the 2017 general election.
Before the dissolution of parliament on November 6, 2019, the Conservatives held 298 seats - 28 seats short of the number needed to form a majority government.
This is one of the reasons we are having a general election in 2019, after PM Boris Johnson struggled to get his Withdrawal Deal through parliament without a majority.
Johnson called a snap election with the hope of winning more seats and securing a majority for the Conservatives.
In 1974 Harold Wilson led a minority Labour government for seven months before calling an election and winning a small majority.
More recently, in 1996 and 1997 John Major’s government became a minority government after losing seats due to defections and by-election defeats.
At the 1997 general election the Conservatives couldn’t gain a majority and so formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats instead of forming a minority government.
Can other countries have minority governments?
Yes, they can. In Denmark there have been more minority governments than single-party majority governments since the Second World War.