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Dropping the writ

Dropping the writ

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Encyclopedia
Dropping the writ is the informal term for a procedure in some parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

ary government systems
Form of government
A form of government, or form of state governance, refers to the set of political institutions by which a government of a state is organized. Synonyms include "regime type" and "system of government".-Empirical and conceptual problems:...

, where the head of government
Head of government
Head of government is the chief officer of the executive branch of a government, often presiding over a cabinet. In a parliamentary system, the head of government is often styled prime minister, chief minister, premier, etc...

 (that is the prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

, premier
Premier
Premier is a title for the head of government in some countries and states.-Examples by country:In many nations, "premier" is used interchangeably with "prime minister"...

 or chief minister
Chief Minister
A Chief Minister is the elected head of government of a sub-national state, provinces of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, notably a state of India, a territory of Australia or a British Overseas Territory that has attained self-government...

, as the case may be) goes to the head of state
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

 and formally advises him or her to dissolve parliament
Dissolution of parliament
In parliamentary systems, a dissolution of parliament is the dispersal of a legislature at the call of an election.Usually there is a maximum length of a legislature, and a dissolution must happen before the maximum time...

. By convention
Constitutional convention (political custom)
A constitutional convention is an informal and uncodified procedural agreement that is followed by the institutions of a state. In some states, notably those Commonwealth of Nations states that follow the Westminster system and whose political systems derive from British constitutional law, most...

, the head of state grants the request and issues a writ of election
Writ of election
A writ of election is a writ issued by the government ordering the holding of a special election for a political office.In the United Kingdom and in Canada, this is the only way of holding an election for the House of Commons...

 for a new parliament.

The head of state usually has the right to refuse the request, in which case the prime minister is required by convention or statute to resign. For example, in the case of a minority government, the head of state can deny the request for dissolution and ask the leader of another parliamentary party to form a government. In some cases, such as with the President of Ireland
President of Ireland
The President of Ireland is the head of state of Ireland. The President is usually directly elected by the people for seven years, and can be elected for a maximum of two terms. The presidency is largely a ceremonial office, but the President does exercise certain limited powers with absolute...

, there are specific limitations on when a head of state can refuse this request. Even under these circumstances, this right is rarely exercised, as it is likely to precipitate a constitutional crisis
Constitutional crisis
A constitutional crisis is a situation that the legal system's constitution or other basic principles of operation appear unable to resolve; it often results in a breakdown in the orderly operation of government...

 (see, for example, the King-Byng Affair
King-Byng Affair
The King–Byng Affair was a Canadian constitutional crisis that occurred in 1926, when the Governor General of Canada, the Lord Byng of Vimy, refused a request by his prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, to dissolve parliament and call a general election....

 of 1926). An argument could be made that the right of a head of state to refuse a dissolution has become a lapsed power
Lapsed power
In politics and government, lapsed power is a term often used to describe a certain constitutionally-granted power of government that is no longer used, according to constitutional convention...

. However, there is a more recent counter-example in the 1985 election in Ontario
Ontario general election, 1985
The Ontario general election of 1985 was held on May 2, 1985, to elect members of the 33rd Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontario, Canada...

. The incumbent Conservative party was reduced to minority status, and lost a non-confidence motion. Lieutenant Governor
Lieutenant Governor of Ontario
The Lieutenant Governor of Ontario is the viceregal representative in Ontario of the Canadian monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, who operates distinctly within the province but is also shared equally with the ten other jurisdictions of Canada and resides predominantly in her oldest realm, the United...

 John Black Aird
John Black Aird
John Black Aird, was the 23rd Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Canada, from 1980 to 1985.Born in Toronto, Ontario, the grandson of Canadian financier Sir John Aird, John Black Aird was educated at Upper Canada College, Trinity College and Osgoode Hall Law School. He was a Brother at the Toronto...

 asked the opposition Liberal leader to form a government, with third-party NDP support, rather than issuing new writs of election.

Usually, according to parliamentary law, the head of government must regularly call an election, but it is otherwise within their discretion when to drop the writ, up to the time when the parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

 has served its full term. At that point, an election must be called by issuing the writs. An exception to this principle is in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, where a recent law provides for fixed election dates (though recent events have called its effect into question).

In some states and territories of Australia
States and territories of Australia
The Commonwealth of Australia is a union of six states and various territories. The Australian mainland is made up of five states and three territories, with the sixth state of Tasmania being made up of islands. In addition there are six island territories, known as external territories, and a...

, such as New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

, Victoria
Victoria (Australia)
Victoria is the second most populous state in Australia. Geographically the smallest mainland state, Victoria is bordered by New South Wales, South Australia, and Tasmania on Boundary Islet to the north, west and south respectively....

, South Australia
South Australia
South Australia is a state of Australia in the southern central part of the country. It covers some of the most arid parts of the continent; with a total land area of , it is the fourth largest of Australia's six states and two territories.South Australia shares borders with all of the mainland...

, and the Australian Capital Territory
Australian Capital Territory
The Australian Capital Territory, often abbreviated ACT, is the capital territory of the Commonwealth of Australia and is the smallest self-governing internal territory...

, it is normally required by law that the parliament must run its full term before issuing the writs. Early dissolutions are allowed by the Governor (NSW, Vic, SA) or federal Minister for Territories (ACT) only if certain objective criteria are met - in particular, if the parliament is unable to agree on the annual budget
Budget
A budget is a financial plan and a list of all planned expenses and revenues. It is a plan for saving, borrowing and spending. A budget is an important concept in microeconomics, which uses a budget line to illustrate the trade-offs between two or more goods...

. Similarly, in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, it is the norm for parliament to run full term unless the prime minister cannot govern or feels he must bring an important issue before the nation.

Opposition parties can bring down the government by passing a motion of no confidence
Motion of no confidence
A motion of no confidence is a parliamentary motion whose passing would demonstrate to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in the appointed government.-Overview:Typically, when a parliament passes a vote of no...

, in which the prime minister is required by convention or specific law to either drop the writ or resign; parliaments do not have the right to force the prime minister to drop the writ.