national government

National governments (alternatively national unity governments or national union governments) are broad coalition governments consisting of all parties (or all major parties) in the legislature and are often formed during times of war or national emergency.


During World War I the Conservative government of Sir Robert Borden invited the Liberal opposition to join the government as a means of dealing with the Conscription crisis of 1917. The Liberals, led by Sir Wilfrid Laurier refused; however, Borden was able to convince many individual Liberals to join what was called a Union Government, which defeated the Laurier Liberals in the fall 1917 election.

During World War II, the opposition Conservative Party ran under the name National Government in the 1940 election as a means of promoting their platform of creating a wartime national government coalition (evocative of the previous war's Union government). The party did dismally in the election which re-elected the Liberal government of William Lyon Mackenzie King whose party continued to rule alone for the duration of World War II.


The (then independent) Dominion of Newfoundland had a National Government during World War I led by Edward Patrick Morris.


Because of religious and ethnic divisions, it's unlikely to not have a national unity government in Iraq.


Israel has had several National Unity Governments, in which the rival Israeli Labor Party and Likud formed a ruling coalition.


As of 2008, Kenya is governed by Government of National Unity between the rival Party of National Unity of Mwai Kibaki and the Orange Democratic Movement of Raila Odinga following the 2007 presidential election and subsequent violence. This was due to the ODM winning the majority of seats in the National Assembly, but controversially losing the presidential election by a margin that has since been called into question for its validity.


Since Lebanon is a multireligious state and consensus democracy, having a national unity government is more favorable in this country. Unlike other democracies, no group in Lebanon can govern alone.


Luxembourg has had two National Union Governments. The first was formed in 1916, during the First World War (in which Luxembourg was neutral, but occupied by Germany nonetheless). It was led by Victor Thorn and included all of the major factions in the Chamber of Deputies, but lasted for only sixteen months.

The second National Union Government was formed in November 1945, in the aftermath of the Second World War, which had devastated Luxembourg. It was led by Pierre Dupong, who had been Prime Minister in the government in exile in the war, and included all four parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies. The government lasted until 1947, by which time, a normal coalition between two of the three largest parties had been arranged, thus maintaining the confidence of the legislature.

In addition, Luxembourg had a Liberation Government between November 1944 and November 1945, also under Dupong. It served a similar emergency role to a national government, but included only the two largest parties, the CSV and the LSAP.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, the electoral system is often said to discourage coalitions, but nonetheless National Governments were formed during World War I and World War II. The coalition under David Lloyd George lasted until 1922 . During the Great Depression a coalition termed a National Government was formed in 1931 between Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald and the Conservatives and Liberals. Most members of the Labour Party rejected the government, however, and moved to the opposition benches leaving MacDonald and his supporters to stand as National Labour. This coalition had some support from National Liberals, also, with the disarray of the Liberal Party of the time; it took in broader support in the war years, and nominally persisted until the general election of 1945 . Subsequently coalition politics in the UK was seen only in the form of the brief Lib-Lab pact.

United States

In hopes of bridging partisan politics during the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln ran his second term as a National Union government with Democrat Andrew Johnson as his vice-president. The new National Union Party allowed members to retain affiliations with other political parties.

National parties

Some countries such as New Zealand have or have had a National Party, which can lead to the use of the phrase "National Government" when it is in power. Such governments are not National Governments in the sense of this article.


See also

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