In Search of Consensus: New Zealand's Electoral Act 1956 and its Constitutional Legacy - Elizabeth McLeay

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In a series of backroom negotiations in 1956, the National Government and Labour Opposition agreed to put aside adversarial politics temporarily and entrench certain significant electoral rules. For any of these rules to be amended or repealed, Section 189 of the Electoral Act (now Section 268 of the 1993 Act) requires the approval of either three-quarters of all MPs or a majority of electors voting in a referendum. The MPs believed this entrenchment put in place a ‘moral’ constraint to guide future parliaments – but its status has changed over time.

In Search of Consensus tells the story of why and how such a remarkable political settlement happened. It traces and analyses the Act’s protected provisions, subsequent fortunes and enduring legacy. As such, it is an important contribution to understanding the contemporary constitution and political culture of Aotearoa New Zealand.

1   The ‘Remarkable’ Electoral Act 1956

2   New Zealand’s Constitution in the 1950s
3   Politics and Government in the 1950s
4   The Unsettled Electoral Issues
5   The Making of the Electoral Act 1956
6   Entrenchment  
7   The Reserved Provisions: Justifications and Evolution
8   The Electoral Act 1956 and Constitutional Evolution in Aotearoa New Zealand

Elizabeth McLeay is a political scientist who has published extensively on New Zealand and comparative politics and government. Her books include: The Cabinet and Political Power in New Zealand (Oxford University Press, Auckland, 1995); with Jonathan Boston, Stephen Levine and Nigel S. Roberts, New Zealand Under MMP: A New Politics?(Auckland University Press/Bridget Williams Books, Auckland, 1996); with Kate McMillan and John Leslie, eds., Rethinking Women and Politics: New Zealand and Comparative Perspectives (Victoria University Press, Wellington, 2009); and with Claudia Geiringer and Polly Higbee, What’s the Hurry? Urgency in the New Zealand Legislative Process 1987–2010 (Victoria University Press, Wellington, 2011). Formerly a professor at Victoria University of Wellington, Elizabeth has received many awards and fellowships.

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