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A motion of no-confidence, or a vote of no confidence, or confidence motion, is a statement or vote about whether a person in a position of responsibility (government, managerial, etc.) is no longer deemed fit to hold that position, perhaps because they are inadequate in some respect, are failing to carry out obligations, or are making decisions that other members feel detrimental. As a parliamentary motion, it demonstrates to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in (one or more members of) the appointed government. In some countries, if a no confidence motion is passed against an individual minister they have to resign along with the entire council of ministers.

A censure motion is different from a no-confidence motion. Depending on the constitution of the body concerned, "no confidence" may lead to dismissal of the Council of Ministers or other position-holders, whereas "censure" is meant to show disapproval and does not result in the resignation of ministers. The censure motion can be against an individual minister or a group of ministers, but depending on a country's constitution, a no-confidence motion may be more directed against the entire cabinet. Again, depending on the applicable rules, censure motions may need to state the reasons for the motion while no-confidence motions may not require reasons to be specified.

Parliamentary systems

There are a number of variations in this procedure between parliaments. In some countries a motion of no confidence can be directed at the government collectively or at any individual member, including the prime minister. In Spain, it is presented by the prime minister after consultation. Sometimes motions of no confidence are proposed even though they have no likelihood of passage, simply to pressure a government or to embarrass its own critics, who may for political reasons decide not to vote against it.

In many parliamentary democracies, there are strict time limits for no-confidence motions: they may only be allowed once every three, four or six months. Thus, the timing of a motion of no confidence is a matter of political judgement; a motion of no confidence on a relatively trivial matter may prove counterproductive if a more important issue suddenly arises which actually warrants a motion of no confidence, because such a motion cannot be proposed if one has been voted on recently. Sometimes, the government will choose to declare that one of its bills is a "motion of confidence" in order to prevent dissident members of their own party voting against it.

In the Australian Parliament, a motion of no confidence requires a majority of the members present in the House of Representatives to agree to it. The House of Representatives currently consists of 151 members; requiring 76 votes in favour of the motion when all members of the House are present. A straight vote of no confidence in a government, or a motion or amendment censuring a government, has never been successful in the House of Representatives.[1] Despite this, on eight occasions governments have either resigned or advised a dissolution following their defeat on other questions before the House.[1] The last time a government resigned after being defeated in the House came in October 1941, when the House rejected the budget of Arthur Fadden's minority government.

Specific motions of no confidence or censure motions against the Prime Minister, ministers, the Leader of the Opposition, Senators and leaders of political parties have been moved and have been successful on some occasions. Motions of no confidence against the government may be passed in the Senate, yet may have little or no impact in the House.[1] However, the Senate's right to refuse supply helped spark the 1975 Australian constitutional crisis. The convention remains a grey area as Westminster governments are not normally expected to maintain the confidence of the upper house.

In Canadian politics, a vote of no confidence is a motion that the legislature disapproves, and no longer consents to the governing Prime Minister or provincial Premier and the incumbent Cabinet.[2] A vote of no confidence that passes leads to the fall of the incumbent government. The practice originates as a constitutional convention,[2] and remains an uncodified procedure not outlined in any standing orders for the House of Commons of Canada.[3] A no confidence motion may only be directed against the incumbent government in the legislature; with votes of no confidence against the legislature's Official Opposition being inadmissible[4]

At the federal level a vote of no confidence is a motion presented by a member of the House of Commons that explicitly states the House has no confidence in the incumbent government.[3] The government may also declare any bill or motion to be a question of confidence.[3] Several motions and bills are also considered implicit motions on confidence, and a vote of no confidence may be asserted automatically if they fail to pass. Bills and motions that are considered implicit motions of confidence includes appropriations/supply bills, motions concerning budgetary policy of the government, and the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.[5] While the failure to pass these bills may be used as an automatic assertion of a vote of no confidence, the opposition is not obligated to assert the failure as a no confidence motion against the government.[6]

Should a vote of no confidence pass, the Prime Minister of Canada is required to submit his or her resignation to the Governor General of Canada.[2] The Governor General may than invite the leader of another coalition/party to attempt to form a new government in the House of Commons, or dissolve Parliament and call for a general election.[2] Six no confidence motions were passed in the House of Commons of Canada, in 1926, 1963, 1974, 1979, 2005, and 2011.[5] Successful votes of no confidence in the 20th century were all the result of a loss of supply, while votes of no confidence in 2005, and 2011 were the result of explicit confidence motions presented by the opposition.

The confidence convention is also present in the provincial legislatures of Canada, and largely operate in the same manner as its federal counterpart. However if the motion passes, the decision to either dissolve the legislature and call for an election, or see if another coalition/party can form a government is left to the provincial lieutenant governors, and not the Governor General.[5]

Two Canadian territories, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut, operate as a consensus government system; in which the premier is chosen by the members of the non-partisan legislature. In the event a vote of no confidence against the incumbent government passes, the premier and cabinet are removed from office, and the legislature is permitted to elect a new premier.[7] Ministers in consensus governments are also nominated by members of the legislature, and as a result, confidence motions may be directed against any individual ministers holding office.[8]

In Germany,[9] a vote of no confidence in the Federal Chancellor requires that the opposition, on the same ballot, propose a candidate of their own whom they want to be appointed as successor by the Federal President. Thus, a motion of no confidence can only be brought forward if there is a positive majority for the new candidate (this variation is called a constructive vote of no confidence). The idea was to prevent crises of the state such as those found near the end of the German Weimar Republic. Frequently, Chancellors were turned out of office without their successors having enough parliamentary support to govern. Unlike the British system, the Chancellor does not have to resign in response to the failure of a vote of confidence, provided it has been initiated by them and not by the parliamentary opposition, but rather may ask the President to call general elections – a request the President may or may not fulfill.

In India, a motion of no confidence can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Parliament of India). The motion is admitted for discussion when a minimum of 50 members of the house support the motion.[10] If the motion carries, the House debates and votes on the motion. If a majority of the members of the house vote in favour of the motion, the motion is passed and the Government is bound to vacate the office. Acharya Kripalani moved the first-ever no confidence motion on the floor of the Lok Sabha in August 1963, immediately after the disastrous India–China War.[11][12] As of July 2019, 28 no-confidence motions have been moved. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi faced the most number of no-confidence motions – 15 times, followed by Lal Bahadur Shastri and P. V. Narasimha Rao (thrice each), Morarji Desai (twice) and Jawaharlal Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Narendra Modi. All the no-confidence motions have been defeated except when Prime Minister Morarji Desai resigned during the discussions on 12 July 1979. The most recent no-confidence motion against the Narendra Modi government was accepted by the Lok Sabha speaker, but was defeated by 325-115.[13]

With the anti-defection law, the vote of no-confidence has no relevance left in case the majority party has an absolute majority in the House. If the majority party (with an absolute majority in the House) issues a whip to party members to vote in favour of the Government, then it is impossible to remove the Government by a no-confidence motion. Hence the no-confidence exercise of House merely becomes the no-confidence exercise of the Party.[14]

In Italy,[15] the government requires the support of both houses of Parliament. A vote of no confidence may be proposed if one tenth of the members of a single house sign the proposition and starting from three days before the appointed date, said vote can be brought into discussion. Following the case of Filippo Mancuso in 1995 and the subsequent Constitutional Court sentence in 1996,[16] it is possible to propose an individual vote of no confidence against a single minister instead of the whole government.

Article 69 of the 1947 Constitution of Japan provides that "if the House of Representatives passes a non-confidence resolution, or rejects a confidence resolution, the Cabinet shall resign en masse, unless the House of Representatives is dissolved within ten (10) days".[17]

The Constitution of Pakistan has provision for a no-confidence motion in all constituents of the Electoral College of the state. The motions can target speakers and deputy speakers of provincial and national assemblies, the Prime Minister, chief ministers of provinces, as well as the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of Senate.[18] Before it can be put for vote on the pertinent house's floor, it needs to have the backing of at least 20% of the elected members in all cases except those moved against speakers or deputy speakers, in which case there is no minimum support limit. After being put to vote, the motion is only deemed successful once passed by a majority.[19]

In terms of history, the no-confidence has mostly been used in removing speakers and deputy speakers. Of the 11 times the motion has been invoked in the country's parliamentary history, 9 motions targeted these posts with 4 being effective.[20][19] An incumbent Prime Minister of Pakistan has only been subject to a no-confidence vote once, in November 1989, when Benazir Bhutto faced an ultimately unsuccessful motion moved by Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi.[21] The same is the case for a provincial chief minister, as the only instance of its use is the one moved against Chief Minister of Balochistan, Sanaullah Zehri in January 2018, which was successful as Zehri resigned before the vote could take place.[22]

On 7 August 2017, Speaker Baleka Mbete announced that she would permit a motion of no confidence in Jacob Zuma's government to proceed in the National Assembly via secret ballot. It was the eighth motion to be brought against Zuma in his presidency and the first to be held via secret ballot. After the vote was held the next day, the motion was defeated 198–177, with 25 abstentions.[23] Around 20 ANC MPs voted in favour of the measure.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 requires for motions of no confidence to be proposed by, at least, one-tenth of the Congress of Deputies—35 out of 350. Following the German model, votes of no confidence in Spain are constructive, so the motion must also include an alternative candidate for Prime Minister. For a motion of no confidence to be successful, it has to be carried by an absolute majority in the Congress of Deputies. A minimum period of five days must pass after the motion's registration before it can come up for a vote. Other parties are entitled to submit alternative motions within the first two days from the registration.[24]

Concurrently, the Prime Minister is barred from dissolving the Cortes Generales and calling a general election while a motion of no confidence is pending. If the motion is successful, the incumbent Prime Minister must resign. Per the Constitution, the replacement candidate named in the motion is automatically deemed to have the confidence of the Congress of Deputies and is immediately appointed as Prime Minister by the Monarch. If unsuccessful, the signatories of the motion may not submit another during the same session.[24][25]

Current Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez was sworn in on 2 June 2018 after a motion of no-confidence against PM Mariano Rajoy was approved on 1 June 2018 for first time in Spanish democracy.[26]

No-confidence motions can be levelled against either the prime minister (on behalf of the entire government) or an individual lower-level minister. At least 35 members of parliament (MPs) have to support a proposal to initiate such a vote. A majority of MPs (175 members) must vote in favour of a declaration of no confidence for it to be successful. If an individual minister loses the confidence vote, he/she must resign. If the prime minister loses the no confidence vote, his/her entire government must also resign.[27] The parliamentary speaker may allow the ousted prime minister to head a transitional or caretaker government until parliament elects a new prime minister.

Under the principle of negative parliamentarism, a prime ministerial candidate nominated by the speaker does not need the confidence of a majority of MPs to be elected. However, a majority of MPs must not vote against the candidate, which renders prime ministerial votes similar to a no confidence vote. This means for a prime ministerial candidate to be successful in the parliamentary vote, he must have at least a total of 175 'yes' and/or 'abstain' votes. If a speaker fails four times to have his/her nominee elected, an extra election must be held within three months of the final vote.

Traditionally, in the Westminster system, the defeat of a supply bill (one that concerns the spending of money) is seen to automatically require the government to either resign or ask for a new election, much like a non-confidence vote. A government in a Westminster system that cannot spend money is hamstrung, also called loss of supply.

Prior to 2011, in the British Parliament, a no-confidence motion generally first appeared as an early day motion although the vote on the Speech from the Throne also constituted a confidence motion.[28] However, under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011, only a motion explicitly resolving "That this House has no confidence in Her Majesty's Government" is treated as a motion of no confidence.

Semi-presidential systems

In semi-presidential systems, the legislature may occasionally pass motions of no confidence, which removes only the cabinet and prime minister, the legislature may also have the power to impeach an executive or judicial officer, with another institution or the legislature removing the officer from their office.

In the Russian Federation, the lower house of parliament (the State Duma) may by a simple majority (i.e. at least 226 votes out of 450) pass a motion of no confidence against the Government of Russia as a whole. In this case, the matter goes for consideration of the President, who may choose to dismiss the cabinet (which the President can do at any moment in time at his own discretion anyway) or just to ignore the Duma's decision. Should the Duma pass a second motion of no confidence against the same composition of the cabinet within three months, the President will be forced to make a concrete decision – to dismiss the government or to dissolve the Duma itself and call for new general elections. The State Duma may not be dissolved on these grounds if it was elected less than a year earlier, if it has already initiated impeachment proceedings against the President himself by bringing respective accusations, if less than six months is left until elections of the President, or if there is a state of emergency or martial law throughout the whole territory of Russian Federation. In the above-mentioned cases, the President would therefore be effectively forced to dismiss the Government.

In France, the lower house of parliament (the French National Assembly) may by a simple majority vote pass a motion of no confidence against the Government of France as a whole. In this case, the Government is removed from power and the President of France has to appoint a new Prime Minister of France, who will have to form a new government.


The first motion of no confidence occurred in March 1782 when, following news of the British defeat at Yorktown in the American Revolutionary War the previous October, the Parliament of Great Britain voted that they "can no longer repose confidence in the present ministers". Prime Minister Lord North responded by asking King George III to accept his resignation. This did not immediately create a constitutional convention. During the early 19th century, however, attempts by prime ministers, such as Robert Peel, to govern in the absence of a parliamentary majority proved unsuccessful, and by the mid-19th century, the power of a motion of no confidence to break a government was firmly established in the UK.

In the United Kingdom, 11 prime ministers have been defeated through a no-confidence motion. There have been only two such motions since 1925, in 1979 (against James Callaghan) and 2019 (against Theresa May).

In modern times, passage of a motion of no confidence is a relatively rare event in two-party democracies. In almost all cases, party discipline is sufficient to allow a majority party to defeat a motion of no confidence, and if faced with possible defections in the government party, the government is likely to change its policies rather than lose a vote of no confidence. The cases in which a motion of no confidence has passed are generally those in which the government party's slim majority has been eliminated by either by-elections or defections, such as the 1979 vote of no confidence in the Callaghan ministry in the UK which was carried by one vote, forcing a general election which was won by Margaret Thatcher's Conservative Party.

Motions of no confidence are far more common in multi-party systems in which a minority party must form a coalition government. This can mean that there have been many short-lived governments because the party structure allows small parties to defeat a government without means to create a government. This has widely been regarded as the cause of instability for the French Fourth Republic and the German Weimar Republic. More recent examples have been in Italy between the 1950s and 1990s, Israel, and Japan.

To deal with this situation, the French placed a greater degree of executive power in the office of its President, who is immune from motions of no confidence, along with a two-round plurality voting system that makes easier the formation of stable majority governments.

In 2008, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, of the re-appointed minority government of Canada, requested that Governor-General Michaëlle Jean prorogue Parliament. The request was granted, and it allowed the Prime Minister to delay a potential vote on the non-confidence motion presented by the opposition. (See 2008–2009 Canadian parliamentary dispute.) Three years later, in 2011, Harper's minority government was defeated by a motion of non-confidence declaring the government to be in contempt of Parliament, leading to the election that year.

In 2013, during the Euromaidan pro-EU riots, the opposition in Ukraine called for a motion of no confidence against the Cabinet of Ministers and pro-Russian, Euroskeptic Prime Minister Mykola Azarov. At least 226 votes were needed to gain a majority in the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament. However, it fell 40 votes short, and Azarov's government prevailed.[29]

On 1 June 2018, in Spain, the Government of Mariano Rajoy was ousted after a motion of no confidence passed 180–169 following the sentence of the Gürtel corruption scandal which involved the ruling party. Pedro Sánchez of the PSOE was sworn in as the new Prime Minister. This is the first time in Spanish history that a vote of no confidence has resulted in a change of government.[30][31]

On 25 September 2018, Prime Minister Stefan Löfven was ousted after losing a vote of no confidence in the Swedish Parliament. This took place in the aftermath of an election held on 9 September, in which the centre-left bloc led by Löfven's Social Democratic Party only won 144 seats in parliament, 31 seats short of an absolute majority and just one seat more than the opposition Alliance bloc. The Sweden Democrats, having just won 62 seats, also voted with the main opposition bloc to express no confidence in the government.[32]

See also

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