What happens if a parliamentary party leader loses his seat?

Suppose that in the upcoming Canadian federal election, Stephane Dion (the leader of the Liberal Party) loses the election in his riding. What happens? Does the Liberal Party appoint a different leader? Does Dion somehow continue attending Parliamentary sessions and sitting in the Opposition seat?

What if the Prime Minister lost his riding?

How about the leader of one of the much smaller parties, say, the NDP?

Not Canadian and generally very ignorant of their politics, but in another thread, it was said that a junior guy would have to step down and let the leader crush his opponent in an election, effectively stealing his seat.

Some parliamentary systems, such as Germany, use a dual system where MPs can be elected by one of two different ways: There are single-party constituencies, but in addition to that there are also party lists. Voters cast votes for these lists, and seats are allocated to the parties based on the proportion of votes gained. The parties can ensure that their leaders win a seat by putting them on the top of their list.

In the case of systems which only use single-party constituencies, such as the UK and to my knowledge Canada, it is customary for parties to nominate their leaders as candidates in strongholds which are almost sure to be won by the respective party.

To sum it up, the parties take reasonable steps to ensure their leaders do not lose their seats.

I don’t know Canadian law but I’d be surprised if there is any strict rule or law that says a party leader absolutely must be an MP. If he lost his seat then he would probably resign the party leadership and if he didn’t he would be quickly challenged for it by someone who still was an MP.

This happened in New Zealand in 1984. The Social Credit party had two seats. The leader lost his, the other guy remained and a new guy won somewhere else so they remained at 2. I think the former leader continued as leader. Not quite the same as a major party I guess.

I’m not sure what party “leader” formally means other than being the assumed PM if the party gains power. Our parties in NZ also have a President who is the real party organizational leader and is not usually an MP.

It happened in Ireland last year. The leader of the Progressive Democrats, Michael McDowell, lost his seat and immediately announced his retirement from politics. The PDs then chose another leader from their parliamentary party. It might have been possible for him to continue on as party leader (depending on their own rules; there’s no law about it) but he would not have had the right to attend parliamentary sessions.

It happened in Australia too and it was a much bigger deal as the party leader in question was actually the Prime Minister, but one of the Aussie dopers will have to tell you more about that.

As in most places that have inherited the Westminster parliamentary system, there aren’t any actual laws about this in Canada, except insofar as one must have a seat to participate in parliament. A party leader need not be an MP. Even the PM need not be an MP, legally speaking. However, by convention the PM must have a seat, and this is one of those conventions that may as well be written law. As for opposition party leaders, it’s all going to depend on the circumstances. Certainly for any of the major parties, not having a seat is a problem in need of a remedy.

Far and away the most common cases of party leaders losing their own riding are instances where a party is slaughtered across the board (see: Kim Campbell). In these cases, the leader will almost certainly resign as party leader.

The next most common case of seatless leaders would be cases where a party is choosing a new leader and picks someone who isn’t a current MP. Pretty sure Jack Layton is the most recent case of this, but some of Dion’s competition for the Liberal leadership weren’t MPs either. In the case of a third or fourth party, it can be feasible to operate as party leader without a seat for some time. Layton didn’t stand for election until the 2004 general election, 16 months or so after he was chosen as leader of the NDP. During that time NDP stalwart Bill Blaikie acted as the parliamentary leader of the NDP in the House of Commons. For the Leader of the Opposition, however, this wouldn’t fly. If Bob Rae had won the Liberal leadership (I can feel Rickjay shuddering from 2 provinces away!) he would have had to run in a byelection as soon as possible, either one that was scheduled anyways, or one engineered by having a Liberal MP resign.

I can’t think of any cases off the top of my head where a party has won an election while the leader lost. It’s probably happened in provincial politics - the very first election I voted in was a Manitoba election in which the PC won and the leader Gary Filmon squeaked by in his own seat by a mere 200 or so votes. Close, but no cigar. Anyways, what would happen in such a case is that someone would be chosen as temporary house leader for the government while the PM/Premier unelect would obtain a seat post haste.

The likely outcome is dependent upon whether or not the party would likely support the party leader’s continuance as leader. Party leaders tend to win their own ridings unless their parties do very poorly, and if their parties do very poorly it’s likely they’ll be ousted as leader anyway. It would be unusual for a leader to lose her or his seat, and yet retain the confidence of their party as leader. If Stephane Dion were to lose his riding on October 14, it could only possibly happen in the context of an absolutely catastrophic meltdown for the Liberal Party, and he’d be forced to resign as party leader anyway.

If in fact a party leader were somehow to lose their seat while leading their party to an otherwise decent election result, a junior MP in a party-safe riding would resign and the party leader would run there in a byelection.

Yes, it has happened in provincial politics. The Quebec Liberal Party won the 1985 elections, but their leader Robert Bourassa lost in the riding of Bertrand. He got elected a month later in the safe Liberal riding of Saint-Laurent.

I think you mean single-member constituencies.

The former PM, John Howard, lost his seat at last year’s federal election. His party also lost government. In opposition, that party (the Liberals) had to elect a new leader from among their members of Parliament to become the Leader of the Opposition. John Howard, no longer a member of Parliament, went off into retirement. Had the Liberals retained government (with their coalition partner, the National Party), then they’d have elected a new leader who would have become PM.

A similar occurrence was that of PM Stanley Bruce, who lost his seat in the 1929 election.

There’s the 1925 Election, which the Liberals technically lost, as well as losing Mackenzie King’s seat, but King remained as PM.

There was also the example of Sir John A. Macdonald. From 1873 to 1878 he was the Leader of the Opposition, and Alexander Mackenzie was Prime Minister. Then in the election of 1878, Macdonald led the Conservative Party to a success, but lost his own seat in Kingston, Ontario. He ran in a bye-election in Victoria, B.C. and won the seat, so for the term of that Parliament he was the M.P. from Victoria.

Mackenzie King also lost his seat (Prince Alber, Sask.) in the 1945 Canadian parliamentary election. He again ran in a “safe constiuency” and won.
[URL=“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Gordon_Walker” lost his seat in the 1964 British general election, but PM Harold Wilson still appointed him as Foreign Secretary. However, Walker lost a by-election a few months later and had to resign his cabinet post.

Mackenzie King also lost his seat (Prince Alber, Sask.) in the 1945 Canadian parliamentary election. He again ran in a “safe constiuency” and won.
Patrick Gordon Walker lost his seat in the 1964 British general election, but PM Harold Wilson still appointed him as Foreign Secretary. However, Walker lost a by-election a few months later and had to resign his cabinet post.

Well…yes. Thanks for the clarification.

Although sometimes it seems to me some of the constituencies here are actually single-party districts, such as the one I live in :mad:

There may well be as many answers to this question as there are parliamentary democracies!

Norway has a system of proportional representation. When you vote for Parliament, you are voting for a party list, and the top X names on that list will get seats according to what proportion of the votes the party got in your district. In addition, some of the seats are apportioned “at large”, meaning they represent no particular district but are used to even out the representation each party gets in Parliament respective to the proportion of votes they got in the country as a whole. (Following this so far?) Parliamentary leaders are placed at the top of the lists in districts where the party generally gets enough votes to ensure at least one seat. However, this sometimes fails. Most recently, in 1997, Anne Enger Lahnstein, then parliamentary leader of the Center Party (traditionally concerned with agricultural and rural issues), failed to win a seat in her district. Fortunately, the Center Party was granted one of the at-large seats, so she was able to take that seat and keep her place in Parliament.

Tom Foley, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, lost his own congressional seat in the Democratic bloodbath of 1994. Although the Constitution does not technically require that the Speaker be a member of the House, they always have been, and no one believed for a nanosecond that Foley could have remained Speaker.

Alec Douglas-Home, formerly a lord, relinquished his noble title and ran and won a safe Tory seat in late 1963 (after the incumbent obligingly resigned) when the Queen asked him to serve as Prime Minister. It was a bit controversial, as the Conservative Party had no particular procedure for picking its leader at the time and the Queen was not obliged to pick Douglas-Home, but when the dust settled there he was, in 10 Downing Street.

The story goes that, many years after President Herbert Hoover’s disastrous loss to FDR in 1932, he was speaking to a British man who didn’t understand American politics very well. “So… did you lose your own seat?” the Brit asked. “Young man,” laughed Hoover, “that’s just about all I kept!”

I’d assume that in a parliamentary system party leaders include the prime minister and the leader of the opposition, who would generally be the leaders of the two largest parties in the lower house. They could also include the leader of a junior party in a coalition government (e.g., the Nationals in Australia), and the leaders of smaller parties in opposition, including those that only have members in the upper house (e.g., the Greens in Australia).

In most cases it would just be by convention that the party leader must be an MP – though that would be a very strong convention in the case of the leader of the opposition. However, in the case of the prime minister it may be legally required. For example, in Australia it is required by the constitution that a minister of the crown must be an MP, or become a member of parliament within 3 months. Only twice has a prime minister not been an MP – Barton in 1901, before the first federal election had been held, and so before there were any MPs, and Gorton in 1968. John Gorton was a senator when appointed as PM, but resigned from the Senate to stand in a by-election to become a member of the House of Representatives, satisfying the strong convention that a PM must be a member of the lower house.