Story: Political parties

The development of political parties, 1946–2011

The shift in New Zealand’s political landscape prompted by the change to the MMP (mixed-member proportional) electoral system in the mid-1990s can be seen clearly in this timeline of political parties. It begins in the 1940s, when the dominance of Labour and National was unchallenged. Over the next four decades attempts to set up alternative parties succeeded – there was clearly interest in them within the electorate – but the parties had almost no impact on Parliament.

This would change dramatically in the 1990s. Public dissatisfaction with the first-past-the-post system was evident in the late 1980s, when new parties began to be formed. This became an outburst of parties forming, splitting and merging in the 1990s, continuing into the 2000s. The reality was even more complex than the chart suggests, as not all the parties registered with the Electoral Commission are represented here. Missing, for example, is the single-issue Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party. Other parties with a brief life – such as Mana Wahine Te Ira Tangata – are also missing. By 2012 some commentators were suggesting that political ferment was drawing to an end.

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How to cite this page:

Jennifer Curtin and Raymond Miller, 'Political parties - The party system develops, 1891 to 1935', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 8 February 2023)

Story by Jennifer Curtin and Raymond Miller, published 20 Jun 2012, reviewed & revised 21 Jul 2015