New Zealand general election, 1949

New Zealand general election, 1949
New Zealand general election, 1949
New Zealand
1946 ←
30 November 1949 (1949-11-30)
→ 1951

All 80 seats in the Parliament of New Zealand
41 seats were needed for a majority
Turnout 1,113,852
  First party Second party
  Sidney George Holland (1953).jpg Peter Fraser.jpg
Leader Sidney Holland Peter Fraser
Party National Labour
Leader since 1940 1940
Leader's seat Christchurch North Wellington Central
Last election 38 seats, 48.4% 42 seats, 51.3%
Seats won 46 34
Seat change increase 8 decrease 8
Popular vote 556,805 506,073
Percentage 51.9% 47.2%
Swing increase 3.5% decrease 4.1%

Prime Minister before election

Peter Fraser

Elected Prime Minister

Sidney Holland

The 1949 New Zealand general election was a nationwide vote to determine the shape of the New Zealand Parliament's 29th term. It saw the governing Labour Party defeated by the opposition National Party. This marked the end of the First Labour government and the beginning of the First National government.


The Labour Party had formed its first administration after winning the 1935 elections, and had remained in power (with gradually decreasing majorities) since then. The National Party, formed by a merger of the parties which Labour had originally ousted, gradually increased its power in Parliament — the ineffectual Adam Hamilton was replaced by Sidney Holland, and internal disputes were gradually resolved. The Prime Minister, Peter Fraser, was increasingly weary, and ongoing shortages after World War II eroded public support for the government. The National Party's decision not to repeal Labour's social welfare policies also increased its appeal.

The election

The date for the main elections was a Wednesday 30 November. Elections to the four Māori seats were held the day before—the 1949 elections were the last in which Māori voted on a different day. 1,113,852 people were registered to vote, although rolls for the Māori seats were "woefully inadequate." Voter turnout for the elections is disputed, given the problems with the Māori roll—some sources place it at 93.5 percent, while others estimate 92.9 percent. Regardless, the turnout was relatively high for the time. The number of seats being contested was 80, a number which had been fixed since 1902.


The 1949 election saw the governing Labour Party defeated by a twelve-seat margin. It has previously held a four-seat majority. Labour won a total of 34 seats, as opposed to National's 46. The popular vote was considerably closer—Labour won 47.2 percent to National's 51.9 percent. No seats were won by minor party candidates or by independents.

Party Leader Votes Percentage Seats won change
National Sid Holland 556,805 51.88% 46 +8
Labour Peter Fraser 506,073 47.16% 34 -8
Communist 3,499 0.33% 0
Democratic Labour John A. Lee 2,627 0.24% 0
Independents and minor parties, (including Frank Langstone) 4,150 0.39% 0 0
National elected 1,073,154 100% 80

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