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What is a by-election?
A by-election is an election held to fill a vacant electorate seat — for example, if a member of Parliament resigns or dies. A by-election is only open to voters who are enrolled in that particular electorate, and there is no party vote.
Just like a general election, a by-election has rules and timelines to follow. The voting period runs for about two weeks.
To contest a by-election, a candidate must be:
- a New Zealand citizen
- enrolled to vote
- nominated by two people enrolled in the electorate where the by-election is being held.
A candidate can stand on behalf of a political party or as an independent.
During a by-election, voting places open across the electorate. Only people enrolled in the electorate can vote for their preferred candidate.
When the voting period ends, votes are counted, and the final results are published. The candidate with the most votes becomes the elected member of Parliament for that electorate.
It is possible that a by-election result can change the proportionality of Parliament or the number of MPs a party has in Parliament. For example, a by-election might be won by a candidate who represents a different party from that of the MP who has left.
Note that a by-election does not affect the number of list seats each party is entitled to — list seats are not recalculated after a by-election.
When will a by-election not be held?
A by-election may not happen in the following situations:
- the vacancy happens within 6 months of Parliament’s 3-year term ending.
- the Prime Minister informs the House of Representatives that a general election will be held within 6 months of the vacancy.
In both situations, at least 75% of the members of Parliament must agree that the vacancy will not be filled.