New Zealand general election, 1943

New Zealand general election, 1943
New Zealand general election, 1943
New Zealand
1938 ←
24 (Māori) & 25 September (general) 1943
→ 1946

All 80 seats in the Parliament of New Zealand
41 seats were needed for a majority
  First party Second party
  Peter Fraser.jpg Sidney George Holland (1953).jpg
Leader Peter Fraser Sidney Holland
Party Labour National
Leader since 1940 1940
Leader's seat Wellington Central Christchurch North
Last election 53 seats, 55.8% 25 seats, 40.3%
Seats won 45 34
Seat change decrease 8 increase 9
Percentage 47.6% 42.8%
Swing decrease 8.2% increase 2.5%

Prime Minister before election

Peter Fraser

Elected Prime Minister

Peter Fraser

The 1943 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 27th term. With the onset of World War II, elections were initially postponed, but it was eventually decided to hold a general election in September 1943, around two years after it would normally have occurred. The election saw the governing Labour Party re-elected by a comfortable margin, although the party nevertheless lost considerable ground to the expanding National Party.



The Labour Party had formed its first government after its resounding victory in the 1935 elections, and had been re-elected by a substantial margin in the 1938 elections. Michael Joseph Savage, the first Labour Prime Minister, died in 1940 — he was replaced by Peter Fraser, who, while not as popular as Savage, was widely viewed as competent. In the same year as Fraser took power, however, the opposition National Party had replaced the ineffectual Adam Hamilton with Sidney Holland, and was beginning to overcome the internal divisions which had plagued Hamilton's time as leader.

As World War II continued, the issues surrounding it naturally came to dominate political debate. Shortages appeared, prompting a certain amount of dissatisfaction with the government. The matter of conscription was also contentious — although both Labour and National supported it, many traditional followers of Labour were angry at their party's stance. Many early Labour leaders, including Fraser, had been jailed for opposing conscription in World War I, and were branded hypocrites for later introducing it — Fraser justified his change of position by saying that World War I was a pointless war, but World War II was necessary. A faction of Labour, dissatisfied with the mainstream party's economic and conscription policies, followed dissident MP John A. Lee to his new Democratic Labour Party.

The election

The date for the main 1943 elections was 25 September, a Saturday. Elections to the four Maori electorates were held the day before. 1,021,034 civilians and an uncertain number of serving military personnel were registered to vote — special legislation provided voting rights to all serving members of the armed forces regardless of age, and they voted over several days prior to 25 September.[1][2]

Among the civilian population, there was a turnout of 82.8%. The number of seats being contested was 80, a number which had been fixed since 1902.[1]


The 1943 election saw the governing Labour Party retain office by a ten-seat margin, winning forty-five seats to the National Party's thirty-four, with one independent. The popular vote was considerably closer — Labour won 47.6%, while National won 42.8%. On election night it appeared that National would win, but the military vote (93,000 votes) tipped the scales in Labour's favour. Fraser is reported to have said that it was not only North Africa that the New Zealand Division had saved.[3]

John A. Lee's new Democratic Labour Party won only 4.3% of the vote, and no seats. Bill Barnard and Colin Scrimgeour were formerly on the Labour left. Barnard had left the Labour Party with John A. Lee but had fallen out with him and left Lee's Democratic Labour Party, standing as an independent. Scrimgeour stood as an independent against Prime Minister Peter Fraser in Wellington Central and polled well, reducing Fraser's majority so that Fraser only sneaked back on a minority vote.

The election was also notable for the defeat of Apirana Ngata a renowned Māori statesman and member for Eastern Maori after 38 years in parliament, by Ratana- Labour candidate Tiaka Omana. Labour now held all four Māori seats and would continue to do so until 1993.

One independent was re-elected: Harry Atmore from Nelson — this was the last electoral victory by a candidate not from the major parties until the 1966 elections. Atmore had the tactical support of Labour who (as in 1935 and 1938) did not stand a candidate against him, and he generally voted with Labour. [4]

Party Leader Percentage Seats won change
Labour Peter Fraser 47.6 45 -8
National Sidney Holland 42.8 34 +9
Democratic Labour John A. Lee 4.3 0 new party
(including Harry Atmore, Bill Barnard & Colin Scrimgeour)
3.9% 1 -1
Labour re-elected 100% 80


  1. ^ a b "General elections 1853-2005 - dates & turnout". Elections New Zealand. Retrieved 12 January 2011. 
  2. ^ Wood, G. A. (1996) [First ed. published 1987]. Ministers and Members in the New Zealand Parliament (2 ed.). Dunedin: University of Otago Press. p. 108. ISBN 1 877133 00 0. 
  3. ^ Atkinson, Neill (2003), Adventures in Democracy: A History of the Vote in New Zealand, University of Otago Press, p.154.
  4. ^ Political Parties in New Zealand by R. S. Milne, p. 76 (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1966)

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