1990 General Election
Jim Bolger

Jim Bolger
Mike Moore

Mike Moore
Jim Anderton portrait

Jim Anderton
Leader Since:
Leaders seat:
King Country
Christchurch North
Last election:
40 seats
57 seats
party not yet founded
Seats Won:
Popular vote:

The 1990 New Zealand general election was held on 27 October to determine the composition of the 43rd New Zealand parliament. The governing Labour Party was defeated, ending its controversial two terms in office. The National Party, led by Jim Bolger, won a landslide victory and formed the new government.


The Labour Party had taken office after defeating the National Party under Robert Muldoon in the 1984 election. David Lange became Prime Minister and Roger Douglas became Minister of Finance. The economic program outlined by Douglas was deeply unpopular with Labour's traditional supporters, however — deregulation, privatisation, and free trade, all opposed by the party's more left-wing members, were a key part of the so-called "Rogernomics" platform. This internal dissent was off-set somewhat by new social legislation and a strong stance against nuclear weapons.

Labour was re-elected in the 1987 election with its parliamentary majority untouched, but the internal disputes continued. Eventually Lange forced Douglas to resign in December 1988, but the crisis had weakened Lange's position such that he resigned eight months later. He was replaced as Prime Minister by Geoffrey Palmer, but Palmer failed to revive Labour's falling popularity. Several months before the election, Palmer was replaced by Mike Moore. The National Party was performing strongly — its leader, Jim Bolger, spoke repeatedly of "the Decent Society", saying that the reforms were doing significant damage to the social fabric of the country. The government was also being challenged by the NewLabour Party, founded by renegade MP Jim Anderton.

Summary of the ResultsEdit

The 1990 election eventually saw a victory for the National Party, then in opposition. National won nearly half (48%) of the vote and 67 (69%) of the seats, becoming the Fourth National Government. This was the highest number of seats the party had ever won, either in absolute terms or as a percentage. Four new (and young) National MPs: (Bill English, Tony Ryall, Roger Sowry and Nick Smith) were called the "brat pack" by Sir Robert Muldoon (himself one of the "Young Turks" of 1960).

The new Green Party gained the third-highest number of votes, but won no seats. The NewLabour Party won a single seat, due to Jim Anderton retaining the Sydenham seat he previously held as a Labour candidate.

The governing Labour Party, by contrast, suffered its worst-ever electoral defeat since it first won power in the 1935 election, winning only 29 (30%) of the seats and 35% of the vote (its lowest percentage since 1931), and losing 27 seats. Initially it appeared that twelve ministers and the Speaker had lost their seats, but Fran Wilde scraped in on special votes. And many of Labour's talented "class of 84" were sent away, though five of them: Phil Goff, Annette King, Jim Sutton, Trevor Mallard and Judy Keall returned in 1993.

The result was primarily due to intense anger at Labour and its policies (shown by it losing 12% of its vote) rather than love of National (which only increased its vote by 4%).

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