1908 General Election
Joseph George Ward

Joseph Ward
William Ferguson Massey

William Massey
David McLaren

David McLaren
Independent Political
Labour League
Leader Since:
Leaders seat:
Wellington East
Last election:
50 seats
29 seats
0 seats
Seats Won:
58 seats
22 seats
1 seat

The New Zealand general election of 1908 was held on Tuesday, 17 November, 24 November and 1 December in the general electorates, and on Wednesday, 2 December in the Māori electorates to elect a total of 80 MPs to the 17th session of the New Zealand Parliament. A total number of 537,003 (79.8%) voters turned out to vote.[1]


Long serving Liberal Party Prime Minister Richard Seddon died in 1906. His replacement, Joseph Ward, did not have the same charismatic flair or leadership. The Liberals found themselves losing support from both farmers (having already obtained their goal of land reform) and urban workers (becoming dissatisfied at the slower pace of reform). Talks were already beginning of an independent labour party.

Indeed, the 1908 election saw the Independent Political Labour League gain Parliamentary representation, becoming the first organized political party to win a seat in Parliament aside from the Liberals. The party itself was focused solely on workers and principles of social democracy, the first of many such parties until the formation of the present day Labour Party in 1916.

Electoral SystemEdit

The Second Ballot Act 1908 provided for second or runoff ballots between the top two candidates where the top candidate did not get an absolute majority. The second ballot was held seven days after the first ballot except in ten large rural seats, where fourteen days were allowed. In 1908, 22 second ballots were held on 24 November and one (Bay of Plenty) on 1 December. At the 1911 election, all 30 second ballots were held seven days later.[2] Two 1909 by-elections (in Rangitikei and Thames) also required second ballots.

The Second Ballot Act of 1908, which did not apply to the Maori electorates, was repealed in 1913.


  1. General elections 1853-2005 - dates & turnout. Elections New Zealand. Retrieved on 12 January 2011.
  2. McLintock, A. H. (1966). Second Ballot System (1908–13). An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. Retrieved on 1 August 2013.
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