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National unity government

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Title: National unity government  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Coalition government, Lebanese government of April 2013, Croatian Government, Ministry of Finance (Greece), Cabinet of Lucas Papademos
Collection: Political Parties
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

National unity government

A national unity government, government of national unity, or national union government is a broad coalition government consisting of all parties (or all major parties) in the legislature, usually formed during a time of war or other national emergency.


  • Canada 1
    • Newfoundland 1.1
  • Croatia 2
  • Greece 3
  • Israel 4
  • Italy 5
  • Kenya 6
  • Lebanon 7
  • Luxembourg 8
  • United Kingdom 9
    • Quasi-national governments 9.1
  • United States 10
  • Zimbabwe 11
  • National parties 12
  • See also 13


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.


Croatia formed a national unity government in 1991 under prime minister Franjo Gregurić in response to the outbreak of the Croatian War of Independence. Even though the cabinet included ministers from minority parties, all heads of ministries were either from the majority Croatian Democratic Union or soon defected to it.


A national unity government in Greece is often called ecumenical government:


Israel has had several National Unity Governments, in which major rival parties formed a ruling coalition. Such a coalition was notably formed in the days leading up to the Six Day War, and after the 1984 elections.


In Italy there was a coalition government between The People of Freedom, Democratic Party and Civic Choice all of whom supported the government of the Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta from 2013 to 2014.


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

First-past-the-post voting, the British electoral system, in constituencies which are far from homogenous, has long increased the likelihood of a single party gaining a majority of MPs, who have run most departments and the government legislation of the country since the early 20th century.

After the formation of clear political parties in the Lords and Commons, the first national unity government in the country was the Ministry of All the Talents that led the United Kingdom for about a year after the death of William Pitt the Younger (Lord Chatham) in 1806, during the Napoleonic Wars. This ministry had cross-party support, ranging from very socially conservative Tories, and the broad range of Whigs (among them Charles James Fox and his 'Foxites'), selected for their combined broad political support in both Houses of Parliament and known capabilities in a time of crisis. However, the ministry was frustrated in its attempts to make peace with France, and despite one major legislative success (banning the slave trade in Britain), it fell apart in 1807 over the question of Catholic Emancipation and was replaced following a general election by a Tory ministry led by the Duke of Portland.

It proved that major wars and the long recovery to Great Depression would be the only further instances of National Governments.

The Second Asquith Ministry presented a brief national coalition (1915-1916) during World War I.

Quasi-national governments

Thereafter National Liberal Party formally split with the Liberal Party.

During the National Liberal Party (UK, 1931). Notably candidates styled in this way contested the 1935 election; this long period of quasi-national government took in broader support and widened its selections of ministers in the war years, and its fourth transmutation persisted until the general election of 1945.

United States

In hopes of bridging partisan politics during the American Civil War, Republican 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.

Since the Civil War, there has never been a "national unity" government in the United States in the traditional sense. There have been several instances, however, during national disasters or wars, that the two parties have briefly "rallied around the President." Such instances include the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the September 11th terrorist attacks, all of which preceded a massive spike in the approval rating of the sitting President.


The 2008–2009 Zimbabwean political negotiations between the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (led by Morgan Tsvangirai), its small splinter group, the Movement for Democratic Change - Mutambara (led by Arthur Mutambara), and the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (led by Robert Mugabe) created a framework for a power-sharing executive government between the two parties. These negotiations followed the 2008 presidential election, in which Mugabe was controversially re-elected, as well as the 2008 parliamentary election, in which the MDC won a majority in the House of Assembly. The new national unity government, including Tsvangirai, was sworn in on 11 February 2009.

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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