A government in exile is a political group(s) that claims to be a country's legitimate government, but for various reasons is unable to exercise its legal power, and instead resides in a foreign country. Governments in exile usually operate under the assumption that they will one day return to their native country and regain power.
Governments in exile frequently occur during wartime occupation. For example, during the German expansion of the Second World War, numerous European governments and monarchs were forced to seek refuge in the United Kingdom rather than face certain destruction at the hands of the Nazis.
Actions of governments in exile
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 by sovereign states
- issuing identity cards
- allowing the formation of new political parties
- instituting democratic reforms
- holding elections
- allowing for direct (or more broadly-based) elections of its government officers, etc.
By definition, a government in exile is spoken of in terms of its native country, hence it must return to its native country and regain power there in order to obtain legitimacy as the legal government of that geographic area.