New Zealand Political System

According to, with capital city of Wellington, New Zealand is a country located in Polynesia with total population of 4,822,244.

Where is New Zealand

State and politics


New Zealand is an independent, parliamentary democracy within the Commonwealth. The country has no written constitution but is governed by a mixture of customary law, ordinary laws and conventions. The British monarch is head of state and is represented by a general governor, who is now always a New Zealand national and whose power is largely formal. The Governor-General is appointed on a proposal by the New Zealand Government. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how NZ can stand for New Zealand.

The legislative power is exercised by a single-chamber parliament (House of Representatives), which usually has 120 members, elected for three years; However, extra places can be added. In 1996, a new electoral system was introduced that made it easier for small parties to enter Parliament. Some of the members are elected by majority in one-man constituencies, while others are elected from party lists according to the proportional method. Voters may cast two votes, one on a party and one on a local candidate. A number of places are reserved for Maori based on the indigenous population’s share of the total population. Since the 1970s, Maoris have been able to vote or stand for election in the ordinary electoral districts. The voting age is 18 years.


Two parties have dominated politics: the Conservative National Party (National Party, NP) and the Social Democratic Labor Party (NZLP), which has been in power since the 1930s. For almost the entire 1990s, New Zealand was ruled by the National Party, but in 1999–2008 Labor sat in power under the leadership of Prime Minister Helen Clark , though without a majority in Parliament. Between 2008 and 2017, NP was again in office with first John Key and from the end of 2016 with Bill English (born 1961) as prime minister.

Under Labour’s rule in the 1980s, a deregulation of the economy began, causing strong tensions within the ruling party. The National Party, which took over the government in 1990, continued to liberalize the economy, while making a number of dramatic cuts and changes to the welfare system. From 1996-98 the right-wing populist New Zealand First (NZF) was included in the government. After the 1999 election victory, Labor returned to a more traditional social democratic policy. The years 1999–2002 led Labor together with an association of five left and center parties, The Alliance, which however split in 2002. After the 2002 election, Labor formed a minority government together with a small left party, the Progressive Party., which had previously been part of The Alliance. At the same time, the government was dependent on support from, above all, the environmental party The Green Party. However, the collaboration between the two latter creaked; Disagreement arose, among other things, about whether New Zealand would retain a time-limited halt for genetically engineered crops, which was a heart issue for The Green Party. See for New Zealand travel guide.

In the Waitangi Treaty of 1840, the Moorish people were guaranteed that they would retain ownership of their land. Despite this, the Maoris lost most of their property, and gradually they began to claim compensation for the land and the fishing rights they lost. A tribunal was established in 1975 to resolve land disputes, among other things, and since the 1990s some compensation has been paid to some Moorish groups. Prior to the 2005 elections, questions about Maori rights were given much room in the debate. At the beginning of 2004, National Party’s new leader Don Brash received good public figures after he criticized the government for overly discriminating against the Moorish minority. Later that year, a controversial law was passed which meant that the country’s beaches (the area exposed at low tide) and the seabed ended up in state ownership. However, the Maoris had to retain their traditional rights to fish in these areas, for example. The law caused great dissatisfaction among the Moorish population, and a new party, The Maori Party, was formed to take care of their interests.

However, the campaign ahead of the 2005 election came to be dominated by tax issues. Labor again became the largest party, with 50 seats against 48 for the National Party, and Helen Clark was able to form a new government. She continued the close cooperation with the Progressive Party, which was given only a mandate in parliament, but also New Zealand First and the Christian-oriented United Future New Zealand received ministerial posts.

Opinion swung before the 2008 election. Labor support was eroded by a recession with rising unemployment, and the National Party gained almost its own majority in parliament. John Key, the party’s leader since 2006, was appointed new prime minister. The national party formed government with the bourgeois small parties ACT and United Future New Zealand. John Key could remain as prime minister even after the 2011 election. NP made a good choice and conquered another parliamentary mandate, while Labor backed further and lost eight seats. In connection with the 2011 parliamentary elections, a referendum was also held on New Zealand’s electoral system, with a clear majority voting to maintain the country’s current system.

The National Party went further in the 2014 elections; the party received 48 percent of the vote and conquered 61 seats in Parliament while Labor backtracked again. NP’s success was largely attributed to John Key’s popularity among voters.

In December 2016, however, John Key chose to step down as both party leader and prime minister. He was succeeded in both positions by Finance Minister Bill English, who already announced in early 2017 that new elections would be held during the fall. The NP had high opinion figures and English expected that the political stability and good economic growth during the party’s term in power would give it new confidence among voters.

However, Bill English was not as popular as his representative, while in August 2017 Labor got a new party leader in Jacinda Ardern. Ardern went to elections with promises of change and justice. Her political programs included increased economic equality, free university education and a more restrictive immigration policy. Labour’s popularity increased especially among younger New Zealanders.

In the parliamentary elections on September 23, 2017, the National Party received 56 seats. Labor received 46 seats. However, in order to form a majority government, 61 mandates were needed, with both English and Ardern turning to Winston Peters, leader of the New Zealand First populist party. Peters and NZF chose to support a Labor government under Jacinda Ardern. The Green Party also pledged its support to such a government.

The cornerstones of New Zealand’s foreign policy are mainly good relations and close cooperation with Australia within various regional and international bodies, but also with the small states of the southwestern Pacific. Until the 1980s, New Zealand worked closely with the United States and Australia on defense issues within the so-called ANZUS pact. Australia remains, but contacts with the United States deteriorated in 1987 when New Zealand passed a law that banned nuclear-powered or nuclear-powered warships and aircraft to visit the country.

However, relations with the United States have improved since then. In 2001, New Zealand sent soldiers to the NATO-led operation in Afghanistan. Although Prime Minister Clark criticized the US-led attack on Iraq two years later, an engineering federation was later sent to southern Iraq to participate in reconstruction work there, and in 2015 New Zealand participated in a military exercise with the United States and Australia (Talisman Saber). The relationship with France has at times been strained because of French nuclear weapons tests in the region. Contact has improved since France approved a UN agreement to stop all nuclear weapons tests.

In 2008, New Zealand, as the first western country, signed a free trade agreement with China with the aim of gradually phasing out tariffs between the countries. As early as 2003, trade cooperation with Singapore and Chile began in what was to be expanded with about ten countries in both Asia and America to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), the world’s largest trading bloc. However, under President Donald Trump, the United States left the organization but other countries have said they want to continue the cooperation.

For a more detailed account of the events in New Zealand since 1996, see Annual overviews. Compare the History section.


The legal system is based almost entirely on English legal traditions and reception of English law, though with insignificant modifications and additions through domestic legislation. The court organization is also English-inspired, with district courts, a High Court and a Court of Appeal. Under certain conditions, appeals can ultimately be referred to the Privy Council in London. The death penalty was abolished in 1989; the last execution took place in 1957.

Prime Ministers

1893-1906 Richard Seddon (L)
1906-12 Joseph Ward (L)
1912 Thomas Mackenzie (L)
1912-25 William Massey (R)
1925 Francis Dillon Bell (R)
1925-1928 Gordon Coates (R)
1928-30 Joseph Ward (U)
1930-35 George Forbes (U)
1935-40 Michael Joseph Savage (L)
1940-49 Peter Fraser (L)
1949-57 Sidney Holland (N)
1957 Keith Holyoake (N)
1957-60 Walter Nash (L)
1960-72 Keith Holyoake (N)
1972 John Marshall (N)
1972-74 Norman Kirk (L)
1974-75 Wallace Rowling (L)
1975-84 Robert Muldoon (N)
1984-89 David Lange (L)
1989-90 Geoffrey Palmer (L)
1990 Mike Moore (L)
1990-97 Jim Bolger (N)
1997-99 Jenny Shipley (N)
1999-2008 Helen Clark (L)
2008-16 John Key (N)
2016-17 Bill English (N)
2017- Jacinda Ardern (L)

Party Abbreviations:
L = Labor Party
N = National Party
R = Reform Party
U = United Party