Return to Guide contents page Meet the team. Using the DecisionMaker Guide site. Places on the web that interest us.
Order your copy of the Guide or other DecisionMaker publications.
A directory of government agencies.
Exercises and worksheets for highschool students.
Link to the big picture
Link to How the law works
Link to How Parliament works Link to How government works

Search in DM

Guide to 2008 NZ Election
Archived NZ Parlt 2005-08
Archived NZ Parlt 2002-05
Our Parliament House
International perspectives on democracy
Electing Parliament
General-election results
Parliamentary parties
NZ First
United Future
Forming the government
Composition of Parliament
The role of the Speaker
Who drafts the laws?
How laws are made
How a bill becomes an act
The Office of the Clerk
Parliamentary Service
MP's pay
A Labour example - Darren Hughes
A National example -
John Key
Select committees
Select commitee members
Petitioning Parliament
Visiting Parliament
Opinion polls
Parliamentary history
The New Zealand Business and Parliament Trust


  Labour led coalition building

NZ General Election 2005

by Anthony Haas, Asia Pacific Economic News Bureau, Parliamentary Press Gallery, Wellington.

Labour leader Helen Clark immediately started working to form a government following the cliff hanging result of the 17 September New Zealand general election.

She succeeded, and advised the Governor-General on 17 October 2005 she could form her third Government, then announced Labour Party agreements with four parties, and, on 19 October, her Cabinet.

National Party leader Don Brash did not immediately concede defeat just because Labour had 50 seats to National's provisional 49 seats on election night - and said he would work to form a government. when the special votes came in, he conceded - his seats down one to 48.

Independent bystanders could not rule Brash out because of the influence minority parties could have had in the negotiations that proceeded throughout September. Additionally, special votes, recounts, electoral challenges and the committment to positions struck during the campaign could have affected the political equation.

Confidence and supply negotiations
During the week after the election the Labour and National leaders talked with leaders of minor parties, laying the ground for negotiations that could lead to coalitions, understandings on supporting votes of "confidence", votes for "supply" and other factors that affect the ability to form and keep a government stable.

Special votes
The negotiations looked to slow down until the third week after the election, when the "special votes" were reported, and some election night provisional results were overturned. People overseas, students away from their electorate on election day are typical of those who cast special votes in advance, and which needed time and checking after election day to be properly counted. Even then, candidates could (as NZ First leader and Tauranga candidate Winston Peters did) use the law to challenge results - and that in turn could have affected the overall result.

Social inclusion
Incumbent, caretaker Prime Minister Clark spoke the language of inclusion in her immediate post-election comments to the nation about her strategy for imminent talks with party leaders about forming a new government..

Inclusion, normally a tone struck by the leader of United Future Peter Dunne, was not evident when he said the price of his support could be the non inclusion of Green Party representation (particularly co-leaders Rod Donald and Jeanette FitzSimmons) at the Cabinet table. The result of the month of negotiations was that Peter Dunne, and the NZ First leader Winston Peters, both became Ministers - but outside Cabinet. The Green leaders got a range of their policies accepted, and some limited spokesperson roles for the Labour led Government.

Helen Clark emphasised the need for the negotiations to produce stable government for her third term in office. To achieve her goal she received committments from NZ First and United Future to support the Labour-Progressive coalition on confidence and supply, and Green Party committment to abstain on such motions that can topple a government.

Dr Brash although not able to form a government in the face of the determination, skills and numbers advantage held by Helen Clark, did, however, lead the National Party back from the cold into a strong position as government in waiting. The poll rejuvenated his caucus, to include former high performers in the diplomatic service and others who can offer a strong case to govern.

Lanugage - particularly code language related to race - has been an increasingly powerful electoral force. as the 17 percent of those polled showed when they rushed to lend support for Dr Brash's January 2004 "Orewa" speech. Then, he stressed policies based on race should be replaced by policies based on need.

National's electoral slogan in this campaign targeted "mainstream New Zealand", a point the Labour leader picked up in her "inclusion" and "three year stable government" speech when the poll results became clear around midnight on 17 September.

The Mixed Member Proportional electoral system gives mainstream and special interests each a place in the electoral mix - which prospective Prime Ministers, sooner, and later, need to accomodate.

Overall parties status in election
The Maori Party won four electorate seats to join the total of eight parties elected to the 48th NZ Parliament. DecisionMaker compares their votes and seats gained in the 47th Parliament, which lasted between 2002 and August 2005.

Find out the results

The results of the 17 September 2005 general election for the normally 120 seat NZ Parliament can be authoritatively sourced from, and backgrounded from DecisionMaker has grouped the results party by party - noting initially those with list and with electorate seats. Click on the party of interest to you to see which MPs were confirmed in the final results of the 2005 election.

Labour, 50 seats
National, 48 seats
NZ First, seven seats
Greens, six seats
Maori, four seats
United Future, three seats
ACT, two seats
Progressive, one seat

Find out more about MP's personal background
DecisionMaker includes a photo of the face of every MP, grouped by their party, and provides a link to the personal background provided by them. The personal background is usually linked to their party website (Click on the party names above, and then on each of the MP's entry.
There is a fine balance between personal background that is relevant to the public interest, and personal background that is matter of personal privacy. Privacy law, assembled in the book Media Law in New Zealand, updated by Professor John Burrows and Ursula Cheer, Canterbury University, and published by Oxford University Press in 2005, attracts more attention these days.

Parliamentary Information Service
The Wellington based Parliamentary Information Service, an information and referral service for the public, provides answers to questions on all aspects of the NZ Parliament.

The service is provided by the Parliamentary Library and is generally limited to 30 minutes per enquiry, however longer enquiries may be undertaken if appropriate.

The Parliamentary Information Service is happy to have enquiries forwarded to them - Decisionmaker Publications sometimes passes questions to the service. Staff usually manage to reply on the same or following day.

Parliamentary Information Service
Parliamentary Library, Parliament Buildings
Ph 04) 471 9647 Fax 04) 471 2551
Useful links:
Office of the Clerk: (Select Committees & other Parliamentary business, publications etc...)

Watch polls: watch actual election results more
The variation between opinion polls offered during the 2005 New Zealand general election raises questions about how to assist people to use polls.

Find out more to help make this poll a case study

DecisionMaker post election editions
Decisionmaker Guide to Parliament and Government editions are being updated following the 2005 general election - with the first changes being made on this website. Asia Pacific Economic News Parliamentary bureau, assisted by other participants in the citizesnhip education project, is reviewing the 2003 edition to determine core and supplementary content for the website and other editions, such as the cd edition for the first quarter 2006.

Contact us with suggestions for content - we encourage constructive advice.

Citizenship education emphasis: youth, migrants, hosts
DecisionMaker Citizenship education is more than a general introduction for people inside and outside New Zealand about how Parliament works, how Government works, how the law works and the big picture of the whole of government.

It recognises the need to foster civic literacy, and civic participation among young people, amongst new settlers and amongst those who interact with them.

Updated 29 October 2005


Prime Minister Helen Clark and her deputy, Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen explain the November 2005 government formation arrangements to the Parliamentary Press Gallery

Helen Clark and Michael Cullen brief Press Gallery about new government arrangements 2005