New Zealand general election, 1966

New Zealand general election, 1966
New Zealand general election, 1966
New Zealand
1963 ←
26 November 1966 (1966-11-26)
→ 1969

All 80 seats in the Parliament of New Zealand
41 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout 1,205,095 (86.0%)
  First party Second party Third party
  Keith Holyoake (1960).jpg Norman Kirk.jpg No image.png
Leader Keith Holyoake Norman Kirk Vernon Cracknell
Party National Labour Social Credit
Leader since 1957 1965 1966
Leader's seat Pahiatua Lyttelton Hobson
Last election 45 seats, 47.1% 35 seats, 43.7% 0 seats, 7.9%
Seats won 44 35 1
Seat change decrease 1 steady 0 increase 1
Popular vote 525,925 499,392 174,513
Percentage 43.6% 41.4% 14.5%
Swing decrease 3.5% decrease 2.3% increase 6.6%

Prime Minister before election

Keith Holyoake

Elected Prime Minister

Keith Holyoake

The 1966 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 35th term. It saw the governing National Party win a third consecutive term in office. It was also the first time since the 1943 elections that a minor party won a seat in Parliament.


The National Party had established its second administration following the 1960 elections, and had been re-elected in the 1963 elections. Keith Holyoake remained Prime Minister. The Labour Party experienced a leadership change shortly before the 1966 elections — Arnold Nordmeyer, who was closely associated with an unpopular previous Labour government, was replaced by the younger Norman Kirk. Labour remained disunited, however, with ongoing leadership problems undermining Kirk's position. Disagreement between unionists and non-unionists regarding economic policy also weakened the party.

One significant issue which divided National and Labour in the 1966 elections was the question of New Zealand's participation in the Vietnam War. Under National, New Zealand contributed a small number of troops, and Holyoake strongly defended this decision in the election campaign. Labour, by contrast, made the recall of troops one of its key policies — former Labour leader Walter Nash was a particularly strong critic of the war.

The election

The date for the main 1966 elections was 26 November. 1,409,600 people were registered to vote, and turnout was 86.0%. This turnout was relatively low for the time. The number of seats being contested was 80, a number which had been fixed since 1902. It was, however, the last election in which the number of seats was set at this level.


The 1966 election saw the governing National Party retain office by an eight-seat margin. It had previously held office by a ten-seat margin — the drop was a result of losing the Hobson seat to Social Credit's Vernon Cracknell. National won a total of forty-four seats, while the Labour Party remained static on thirty-five. In the popular vote, the parties were closer — National won 43.6% to Labour's 41.4%. The Social Credit Party won 14.5% of the vote and one seat. The election was unique in New Zealand history because only one single seat changed hands.

Party Leader Votes Percentage Seats won change
National Keith Holyoake 525,945 43.6% 44 -1
Labour Norman Kirk 499,392 41.4% 35 ±0
Social Credit 174,513 14.5% 1 +1
Communist 3,167 0.3% 0
(including Arthur Ernest Armstrong)
5,243 0.5 0
National re-elected 1,205,095 100% 80

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