So reading about the premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty abruptly quitting his post, and there's many people wondering if there will have to be an election to replace him. While there is some precedent against it (see Brian Mulroney and Kim Campbell), I wonder if it's the exception to the rule, or if there's no law that forces such a change if this occurs.

Anyone shed some light on the matter?

  • 1
    Isn't this more of a political question?
    – Louis Rhys
    Oct 16, 2012 at 15:20
  • @LouisRhys, It is, but History is where they all get asked as their is no other site for political questions.
    – Russell
    Oct 16, 2012 at 23:45
  • It's why I attempted to revise the question to reference whether it had occurred historically, as opposed to if it's part of law. We'll see how well it works. Oct 16, 2012 at 23:54
  • 1
    @canadiancreed: can you clarify which election(s) you're referring to? I.e.: an election for his seat in Parliament (if he's resigned his seat); an election for leadership of his party (if he's resigned as leader); or a general election (if people think that it's inappropriate to have a change of premier without having the chance to choose the party in power). Oct 17, 2012 at 16:14

1 Answer 1


The Westminster system does not compel, either by law or by convention, a member to resign from his/her electorate and force a by-election upon resignation or loss of confidence as head of government. The decision is left up to the member, who may choose to do so after a satisfyingly long career or in an attempt to allow the party to present a fresh face without being encumbered by someone synonymous with past unpopular policies.

In Australia, very few Prime Ministers have resigned from parliament straight after having resigned as Prime Minister:

  • Edmund Barton, the first Prime Minister, resigned in 1903 to join the newly established High Court.
  • Andrew Fisher resigned as Prime Minister and from his seat without much explanation in 1915.
  • Robert Menzies retired in 1966 after having been Australia's longest serving Prime Minister. He had earlier resigned as Prime Minister in 1941 but had stayed on in parliament.
  • Malcolm Fraser resigned from parliament after losing the 1983 election.
  • Bob Hawke resigned from parliament 3 months after losing to a leadership challenge from Paul Keating. At the time, he had been Australia's second longest serving Prime Minister.
  • Paul Keating resigned from parliament after losing the 1996 election.

I'm not as familiar with the poliical history of other countries. Some examples of those who have not resigned from parliament straight after resigning as Prime Minister are John Major (UK), Margaret Thatcher (UK), Paul Martin (Canada) and Jenny Shipley (NZ).

  • 2
    Didn't Australia also have a Prime Minister who just flat out disappeared? It's an odd place...
    – T.E.D.
    Oct 16, 2012 at 14:39
  • Yes, Harold Holt, who disappeared on a swim (and had a swimming pool named after him). There have also been two more who died in office and two who lost their seats at election, one of whom subsequently regained his seat.
    – lins314159
    Oct 16, 2012 at 22:11

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.