On a Four Year Parliamentary Term | Striking the best balance of government effectiveness and accountability

By Kieran Madden July 16, 2013

After considering the arguments and New Zealand’s history, context, and constitutional arrangements in-depth, a persuasive case can be made that a fixed, four-year term is likely to afford good government without unduly reducing accountability. MMP has made enough of a difference to the way the powers of government are distributed and the legislative process carried out that the time is now right for New Zealanders—informed and engaged through the “Constitution Conversation”—to consider and decide this question at a referendum. If this eventuates, New Zealanders should approach the ballot box confident that a fixed, four-year term would make our great constitution even better. As distinguished political scientist Samuel Beer quipped, “representative government must not only represent, it must also govern.” It’s time to let it.

Policy Paper

On the Parliamentary Term

Striking the best balance of government effectiveness and accountability



  1. That New Zealand’s parliamentary term is extended to a period of four years;
  2. That the term is fixed, with the date of the election—the last Saturday in November for example—set in mandatory legislation;
    • But if the government loses the confidence of the House, the following process is triggered:
      1. If no new government is formed within one month of the vote of no confidence, then parliament is dissolved; or
      2. if before this one month deliberation period is over parliament passes a motion to dissolve itself by a supermajority (75 percent), then parliament is dissolved;
    • If parliament is dissolved mid-term (following either of the above options) the incoming government will serve as close to a full term as possible with the next election occuring on the same fixed date as set in mandatory legislation; and
  3. That this legislation is implemented no earlier than 2017, dependent on gaining majority support through a public referendum.
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