A government in exile is a political group which claims to be a country or semi-sovereign state’s legitimate government, but is unable to exercise legal power and instead resides in another state or foreign country.
Governments in exile usually plan to one day return to their native country and regain formal power.
Exiled governments tend to occur during wartime occupation, or in the aftermath of a civil war, revolution, or military coup.
The effectiveness of a government in exile depends primarily on the amount of support it receives, either from foreign governments or from the population of its own country. Some exiled governments come to 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.
International law recognizes that governments in exile may undertake many types of actions in the conduct of their daily affairs. These actions include:
- becoming a party to a bilateral or international treaty
- amending or revising its own constitution
- maintaining military forces
- retaining, or newly obtaining, diplomatic recognition from other states
- issuing identity cards
- allowing the formation of new political parties
- holding elections
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.
Many countries established a government in exile after loss of sovereignty in connection with World War II.
A large number of European governments-in-exile were set up in London.