New Zealand general election, 1972

New Zealand general election, 1972
New Zealand
1969 ←
25 November 1972 (1972-11-25)
→ 1975

All 87 seats in the New Zealand House of Representatives
44 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout 1,340,168 (88.94%)
  First party Second party
  Norman Kirk.jpg Jack Marshall Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F011973-0020 cropped.jpg
Leader Norman Kirk Jack Marshall
Party Labour National
Leader since 1965 1972
Leader's seat Sydenham Karori
Last election 39 seats, 44.2% 45 seats, 45.2%
Seats won 55 32
Seat change increase 16 decrease 13
Popular vote 677,669 581,422
Percentage 48.4% 41.5%
Swing increase 4.2% decrease 3.7%

Prime Minister before election

Jack Marshall

Elected Prime Minister

Norman Kirk

The New Zealand general election of 1972 was held to elect MPs to the 37th session of the New Zealand Parliament. The Labour Party, led by Norman Kirk, defeated the governing National Party.



The National Party had been in office since the 1960 elections, when it had defeated the short-lived one-term Labour government of Walter Nash. For most of this period, National had been led by Keith Holyoake, whose policies were focused around stability and a "steady as she goes" approach. Holyoake and his cabinet was increasingly perceived as tired and worn-out, so shortly before the 1972 elections Holyoake stood aside for his deputy, Jack Marshall, who took steps to reinvigorate the National Party.

Norman Kirk had been catapulted into leadership of the Labour party at the end of 1965, after 8 years as a back-bencher. He did much to modernise and update the party, but Labour narrowly lost the 1969 election. So Kirk slimmed and dressed to improve his image, and visited several overseas Labour parties to broaden his knowledge. He activated a "spokesman" or shadow cabinet system to spread the responsibility, though it was difficult to avoid one composed largely of Auckland and Christchurch members. But In the Balance wondered (August 1972) whether National could pull off another cliff-hanger victory.

The election

The date for the 1972 elections was 25 November, a Saturday. 1,583,256 people were registered to vote, and there was a turnout of 89.1%. This turnout was slightly higher than the previous election, and considerably higher than the following one. The number of seats being contested was 87, the highest number since the late 19th century.


The 1972 election saw the Labour Party defeat the governing National Party, winning 55 seats to National's 32. Labour was therefore able to form its first government since 1960, with Norman Kirk becoming Prime Minister. The second National government thus gave way to the third Labour government. No minor parties managed to gain seats, and no independents were elected. There were 1,583,256 electors on the roll, with 1,401,152 (88.50%) voting.

Party Candidates Total votes Percentage Seats won Change
Labour 87 677,669 48.37 55 +16
National 87 581,422 41.50 32 -13
Social Credit 87 93,231 6.65 - ±0
Values 42 27,467 1.96 - ±0
New Democratic Party 86 8,783 0.63 - ±0
Independent 42 4,454 0.32 - ±0
Liberal Reform Party 24 4,077 0.29 - ±0
Dr Barry Dallas1 1 4,049 0.29 - ±0
Total Votes 1,401,152 87 +3

1 Independent runner-up, West Coast


  • In the Balance: Election '72 by Ian Templeton and Keith Eunson (1972, John McIndoe, Dunedin)
  • Right Out: Labour Victory ’72 edited by Brian Edwards (1973, Reed) ISBN 0-589-00801-3 (17 contributors, including Beetham, Brunt, Marshall & Muldoon from other parties)

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