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What is a Provisional Government?

By Brandon 'Bujio' Roberts
Updated May 17, 2024
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A provisional government is a system of authority and control that is set up to maintain order and a sense of status quo when either no government has yet been established or when the established government has collapsed. Many provisional governments have been set up throughout history as empires have collapsed and colonies have sought to gain their independence but have had no definitive way to rule themselves in an established and accepted manner. There is no standard for the way provisional governments must be run or established, and their existence generally is accepted to be a temporary solution until a more permanent governmental structure can be established.

Established with Help

This type of government often is set up with assistance from a sponsor nation that is tasked with the responsibility of helping to stabilize a fledgling nation and aid its growth until it can stand on its own. Duties of sponsor nations often include aiding in the creation of a formal constitution, facilitating the election of national officials, helping to create a stable economy and ensuring a balanced military presence. A provisional government sometimes is set up when a government is overthrown as a result of warfare or terrorist hostilities or when an economy has been destabilized to the point at which it no longer can effectively be managed under its current governmental setup.


Historically, provisional governments have happened as long as people have organized themselves into national groups. The term "provisional government," however, was not used in any formal capacity until 1814, when Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord led the French Senate in the establishment of a provisional government shortly before the overthrow the Napoléon Bonaparte. Since then, there have been many formally recognized provisional governments that have been established and have grown into stable economic powers.


The United States, Great Britain and the United Nations all have been involved in the establishment and facilitation of provisional governments, and all have played a major part in the development of many nations around the world. One particularly popular provisional government that quickly became a world power in a short period of time is the nation of Israel, which gained its independence in 1949. Among the other provisional governments that have been set up include ones in Russia, Korea, India, Lithuania and many of the German-occupied countries after the fall of the Nazi regime in the mid-20th century. Even the United States, at one time, utilized a provisional government before its political system was developed enough to enforce its rule.

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Discussion Comments

By KaBoom — On Oct 04, 2011

@SZapper - Provisional governments are important. I think they really help set the stage for the future permanent government. That's why I really take issue with countries like the United States going into places and "helping" them set up their provisional government.

I think we really need to get over this idea that we are better/know more than every other country in the world. There are some world affair that we should stay out of, such as internal affairs of other countries!

Plus, I think countries that are setting up a provisional government need to know how to do it on their own. If someone else goes in and helps them set it up, how are they supposed to know what to do when it comes time to set up their permanent government?

By SZapper — On Oct 04, 2011

I think provisional governments play an important role when a country is going through major changes. They can put a government in place to help them get back on their feet, so to speak, but it doesn't have to become permanent.

A provisional government provides breathing room so that a nation can actually figure out what their new government is going to be. I think it makes perfect sense.

By ElizaBennett — On Oct 04, 2011

This is an interesting topic because if you think about, when you create a government you have a chicken-and-egg problem. With no government, you also have no mechanism for creating a government.

It seems like the key is to set something up that seems reasonable with your nation's cultural traditions. International support must be helpful these days, but if you think about it, the US got itself going all on its own! (Of course, the US was a special case because the individual states had their own governments.)

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