Political parties in New Zealand

Democracy is only possible if people and parties are willing to put themselves forward for the chance to represent their communities. Our political parties contest general elections and by-elections.

Parties compete to win votes

In a general election, every voter gets two votes: an electorate vote and a party vote.  Parties compete to win as many electorate votes and party votes as they can.

To get any seats in Parliament, a party needs to win at least 5% of the party vote or win an electorate seat. 

Parties stand candidates in electorates

Your electorate vote goes to the candidate you most want to represent the area you live in (your electorate). 

Each party chooses candidates to stand for election in electorates. The candidates with the most votes in each electorate become ‘electorate MPs’. 

In a general election or by-election, candidates can stand in an electorate on behalf of a party, as an independent candidate, or on behalf of an unregistered party.

What is a by-election?

Parties choose candidates for their party list

Your party vote goes to the party you most want to represent you. 

The share of the party vote that each party gets decides how many candidates from their party list become MPs. A party list is a list ranked in the order the party wants its candidates to be elected. Candidates elected to Parliament from a party list are called ‘list MPs’.

Because our voting system is proportional, the share of the party vote a party gets largely reflects the share of seats they get in Parliament.

What is MMP?

Parties can be registered or unregistered

Both registered and unregistered parties can stand electorate candidates at general elections. But only parties registered with the Electoral Commission can:

  • contest the party vote
  • have their registered logo on the voting paper
  • access broadcasting funds for advertising on television and radio. 

Register of political parties 

Guidance and rules for starting a political party

More information

Political parties currently in Parliament — New Zealand Parliament | Pāremata Aotearoa

Story: Political parties — Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand