Since I was asked the question: In Denmark, governments stay in office until they are sacked by the King (Queen).1 Even a vote of no-confidence doesn’t mean that a government has to resign: The PM can choose to call an election (1981 and 1983/84 can serve as cases in point).
So, calling an election doesn’t change the government’s status – Anders Fogh Rasmussen stayed on as PM from 2001 to 2009 without resigning – and similarly, a government does not have to resign after an election – Hartling in 1975 could be the case in point here: He was only ousted in a vote of no confidence in one of the new Folketing’s first meetings in 1975.
If a majority in the new parliament somehow show that it does not support the government, the PM can either resign or decide to wait for a vote of no confidence – Schlüter 1987 would be a case in point: He decided to call the Social Liberal Party’s bluff when the party declared that it was not part of the government’s parliamentary basis, by resigning and forcing RV to recommend that the Queen appoint … Poul Schlüter as PM. Niels Helveg Petersen, much to his chagrin, had been out-Helveg Petersened.
In Denmark, good constitutional practice, however, says that the government and individual ministers should only make those decisions that are absolutely necessary to keep the political and administrative system running during an electoral campaign. (Special advisors have to leave their position as soon as an election is called. This is not regulated in the constitution, though). The same goes for a government which has formally resigned.
It is perfectly possible to have a rule in the constitution which would state that a PM’s/government’s term in office ends with the end of the parliamentary term. This would mean that the parliamentary basis of the government would somehow have to be tested at the beginning of a new term – this could either be through consultations with the party leaders or a formal investiture vote in parliament. The system in known from Germany (both federally and in the Länder) and Sweden will enact such a rule from 2014.
- Technically, the new PM signs the dismissal of the old PM [↩]