Uncertain days ahead

LONDON • Prime Minister Theresa May indicated yesterday she will form the next British government with support from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Here are the key dates in the process of forming the government, as well as answers to some frequently asked questions about the precarious situation where no political party holds a clear majority in the House of Commons:

SHOW OF SUPPORT (June 13)

The Conservative Party has secured 318 seats, short of the minimum 326 required to have a working majority in the House of Commons. One seat was being recounted at press-time.

The Conservative Party, however, secured the support of the DUP, which has pledged to use its 10 votes in Parliament to support Mrs May's agenda.

The first hurdle for Mrs May's government is to now prove that she has enough support in the House of Commons to push through her programmes, reported the BBC.

The deadline for this is when the new Parliament meets for the first time next Tuesday, where Mrs May's government will face a vote of confidence.

QUEEN' S SPEECH (June 19)

A show of strength in the House is not sufficient to ensure that the Conservative Party forms the next government.

Any prospective government needs to see if it can assemble the votes it needs to get its programme of proposed new laws passed in the Queen's Speech, which is scheduled for June 19.

While Mrs May has already told the Queen she has a workable Commons majority, there have been suggestions that the Queen may not deliver a speech if a question mark remains over whether it will get voted through.

For this to happen, Mrs May will have to rely on the support of the DUP to ensure that it has the required number of votes to pass the Queen's Speech.

MINORITY GOVERNMENT

It is pertinent to note that Mrs May has not cobbled together a coalition government with the DUP; instead, she will govern Britain through a minority government.

In a minority government, all the ministerial positions are filled by the members of the party, rather than through a sharing arrangement with the party or parties that are providing support.

This minority government would be unable to pass laws and legislation without the votes of other parties that are not part of the government.

UNCERTAINTY

Britain has had minority governments before, but they have rarely lasted long, with the last one formed under Mr John Major in 1996-97 and lasting only a few months.

A minority government means that the government has to form alliances and deals with smaller parties to secure their support in Commons votes. This often puts the government under pressure to accede to demands from parties with a smaller mandate than them, or face the prospect of losing crucial votes.

However, there is the possibility of a minority government achieving some stability by entering into a "confidence and supply" agreement with another party.

ANOTHER ELECTION?

In the past, whenever minority governments had been formed at Westminster, the prime minister had held another election at the earliest opportunity in the hope of gaining a working majority. In order for another election to be held, two-thirds of MPs are required to vote in favour of it, the BBC reported.

Alternatively, the opposition could force another election through a vote of confidence motion.

Should the government lose a no-confidence motion or MPs vote in favour of another election, an election will be held 25 working days after Parliament is dissolved.

 

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2017, with the headline 'Uncertain days ahead'. Print Edition | Subscribe