A government in exile is a political group which claims to be a country's legitimate government, but is unable to exercise legal power and instead resides in a foreign country. Governments in exile usually plan to one day return to their native country and regain formal power. A government in exile differs from a rump state in the sense that a rump state controls at least part of its former territory. For example, during World War I, nearly all of Belgium was occupied by Germany, but Belgium and its allies held on to a small slice in the country's west. A government in exile, in contrast, has lost all its territory.
- Current governments in exile
- Deposed governments of current states
- Deposed governments of former states
- Current government claimed of being a government in exile
- Deposed governments of current subnational territories
- Alternative governments of current states
- Alternative separatist governments of current subnational territories
- Exiled governments of non self governing or occupied territories
- Exiled Governments with ambiguous status
- Sovereign Military Order of Malta
- World War II
- Governments in London
- The Danish exception
- Governments in exile in Asia
- Axis aligned governments in exile
- Persian Gulf War
- Municipal Councils in Exile
Governments in exile frequently occur during wartime occupation, or in the aftermath of a civil war, revolution, or military coup. For example, during German expansion in World War II, some European governments sought refuge in the United Kingdom, rather than face destruction at the hands of Nazi Germany. A government in exile may also form from widespread belief in the illegitimacy of a ruling government. For instance, the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces was formed as a result of the Syrian Civil War, which sought to end the rule of the ruling Ba'ath Party.
The effectiveness of a government in exile depends primarily on the amount of support it can receive, either from foreign governments or from the population of its own country. Some governments in exile develop into a formidable force, posing a serious challenge to the incumbent regime of the country, while others are maintained chiefly as a symbolic gesture.
The phenomenon of a government in exile predates formal use of the term. In periods of monarchical government, exiled monarchs or dynasties sometimes set up exile courts—as the House of Stuart did when driven from their throne by Oliver Cromwell and at the Glorious Revolution, or the House of Bourbon did during the French Revolution and the rule of Napoleon. With the spread of constitutional monarchy, monarchical governments in exile started to include a prime minister, such as the Dutch government during World War II headed by Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy.
International law recognizes that governments in exile may undertake many types of actions in the conduct of their daily affairs. These actions include:
In cases where a host country holds a large expatriate population from a government in exile's home country, or an ethnic population from that country, the government in exile might come to exercise some administrative functions within such a population. For example, the WWII Provisional Government of Free India had such authority among the ethnically Indian population of British Malaya, with the consent of the then Japanese military authorities.
Current governments in exile
Governments in exile may have little or no recognition from other states. Some exiled governments have some characteristics in common with rump states. Such disputed or partially in exile cases are noted in the tables below.
Deposed governments of current states
These governments in exile were created by deposed governments or rulers who continue to claim legitimate authority of the state they once controlled.
Deposed governments of former states
These governments in exile were created by deposed governments or rulers who continue to claim legitimate authority of the state they once controlled but whose state no longer exists.
Current government claimed of being a "government-in-exile"
Government of the Republic of China: The currently Taipei-based Republic of China government does not regard itself as a government-in-exile, but is claimed to be such by some participants in the debate on the political status of Taiwan. In addition to the island of Taiwan and some other islands it currently controls, the Republic of China formally maintains claims over territory now controlled by the People's Republic of China as well as some parts by Afghanistan, Bhutan, India, Japan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, and Tajikistan. The usual formal reasoning on which this "government-in-exile" claim is based relies on an argument that the sovereignty of Taiwan was not legitimately handed to the Republic of China at the end of World War II, and on that basis the ROC is located in foreign territory, therefore effectively making it a government in exile. By contrast, this theory is not accepted by those who view the sovereignty of Taiwan as having been legitimately returned to the Republic of China at the end of the war. Both the People's Republic of China government and the Republic of China government hold the latter view. However, there are also some who do not consider the sovereignty of Taiwan as having been legitimately returned to the Republic of China at the end of the war nor that Republic of China (Taiwan) is a government in exile. (The current the Republic of China government is inclined to this view.)
Deposed governments of current subnational territories
These governments in exile claim legitimacy of autonomous territories of another state and have been created by deposed governments or rulers, who do not claim independence as a separate state.
Alternative governments of current states
These governments have been created in exile by political organisations and opposition parties, aspire to become actual governing authorities or claim to be legal successors to previously deposed governments, and have been created as alternatives to incumbent governments.
Alternative separatist governments of current subnational territories
These governments have been created in exile by political organisations, opposition parties, and separatist movements, and desire to become the governing authorities of their territories as independent states, or claim to be the successor to previously deposed governments, and have been created as alternatives to incumbent governments.
Exiled governments of non-self-governing or occupied territories
These governments in exile are governments of non-self-governing or occupied territories. They claim legitimate authority over a territory they once controlled, or claim legitimacy of a post-decolonization authority. The claim may stem from an exiled group's election as a legitimate government.
The United Nations recognizes the right of self-determination for the population of these territories, including the possibility of establishing independent sovereign states.
From the Palestinian Declaration of Independence in 1988 in exile in Algiers by the Palestine Liberation Organization, it has effectively functioned as the government in exile of the Palestinian State. In 1994, however the PLO established the Palestinian National Authority interim territorial administration as result of the Oslo Accords signed by the PLO, Israel, the United States, and Russia. Between 1994 and 2013, the PNA functioned as an autonomy, thus while the government was seated in the West Bank it was not sovereign. In 2013, Palestine was upgraded to a non-member state status in the UN.
All of the above created an ambiguous situation, in which there are two distinct entities: The Palestinian Authority, exercising a severely limited amount of control on the ground under the tutelage of an Israeli military occupation; and the State of Palestine - recognized by the United Nations and by numerous countries as a fully sovereign and independent state, but not able to exercise such sovereignty on the ground. Both are headed by the same person - as of February 2016, President Mahmud Abbas - but are judicially distinct. For example, a dissolution of The Palestinian Authority and resumption of full rule on the ground by Israel would not in itself affect the State of Palestine, which could continue to exist as a government-in-exile diplomatically recognized by the UN and by numerous countries.
Exiled Governments with ambiguous status
These governments have ties to the area(s) they represent, but their claimed status and/or stated aims are sufficiently ambiguous that they could fit into other categories.
Sovereign Military Order of Malta
The Sovereign Military Order of Malta may be considered a case of a government in exile, since it is without territory but recognised as a sovereign government by numerous sovereign countries. However, it does not claim to be a sovereign state, rather a "sovereign subject" of international law. In addition, it no longer claims jurisdiction over Malta, and recognises and maintains diplomatic relations with the independent Republic of Malta.
World War II
Many countries established a government in exile after loss of sovereignty in connection with World War II.
Governments in London
A large number of European governments-in-exile were set up in London.
Other exiled leaders in Britain in this time included King Zog of Albania and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia.
The Danish exception
The Occupation of Denmark (9 April 1940) was administered mainly by the German Foreign Office, contrary to other occupied lands that were under military or civilian administration. Denmark did not establish a government in exile, although there was an Association of Free Danes established in London. King Christian X and his government remained in Denmark, and functioned comparatively independently until August 1943 when it was dissolved, placing Denmark under full German occupation. Meanwhile, Iceland, Greenland and the Faroe Islands were occupied by the Allies, and effectively separated from the Danish crown. (See British occupation of the Faroe Islands, Iceland during World War II, and History of Greenland during World War II.)
Governments-in-exile in Asia
The Philippine Commonwealth (invaded 9 December 1941) established a government in exile in Australia and the United States.
While formed long before World War II, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea continued in exile in China until the end of the war.
Under the auspices of the Axis powers, Axis-aligned groups from some countries set up "governments-in-exile" in Axis territory, even though internationally recognized governments remained in place in their home countries.
Persian Gulf War
Following the Ba'athist Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait, during the Persian Gulf War, on August 2, 1990, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and senior members of his government fled to Saudi Arabia, where they set up a government-in-exile in Ta'if. The Kuwaiti government in exile was far more affluent than most other such governments, having full disposal of the very considerable Kuwaiti assets in western banks—of which it made use to conduct a massive propaganda campaign denouncing the Ba'athist Iraqi occupation and mobilizing public opinion in the western hemisphere in favor of war with Ba'athist Iraq. In March 1991, following the defeat of Ba'athist Iraq at the hands of coalition forces in the Persian Gulf War, the Sheikh and his government were able to return to Kuwait.
Municipal Councils in Exile
Following the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus in 1974 and the displacement of many Greek Cypriotes from North Cyprus, displaced inhabitants of several towns set up what are in effect Municipal Councils in Exile, headed by Mayors in Exile. The idea is the same as with a national Government in Exile - to assert a continuation of legitimate rule, even though having no control of the ground, and working towards restoration of such control. Meetings of the exiled Municipal Council of Lapithos took place in the homes of its members until the Exile Municipality was offered temporary offices at 37 Ammochostou Street, Nicosia. The current Exile Mayor of the town is Athos Eleftheriou. The same premises are shared with the Exile Municipal Council of Kythrea.
Also in the Famagusta District of Cyprus, the administration of the part retained by the Republic of Cyprus considers itself as a "District administration in exile", since the district's capital Famagusta had been under Turkish control since 1974.