The Parliamentary Library has published a research paper addressing parliamentary terms in New Zealand and other jurisdictions. The paper considers the lengths of parliamentary terms in democratic systems, and whether those terms are fixed or allow for the date of the election to be changed.

The purpose of the paper is to outline the range of parliamentary terms, and mechanisms for ending the term, setting the election date, and beginning a new parliamentary term in various well established democracies.

The paper explains that parliamentary terms are generally four or five years in well established democracies. However, a few, specifically New Zealand and Australia, do have shorter terms of three years.

With regard to the fixed or flexible nature of terms, it made a series of findings:

  • Some terms are fixed, with no provision for bringing the term to an end early.
  • Some are flexible, allowing elections to be called up to the expiry of the term.
  • The date of expiry of the term may depend on a specific event, or when the new parliament is elected or first meets. Polling day is generally determined in relation to another event, such as a fixed calendar date.
  • Extraordinary circumstances to end a fixed term parliament may include inability to fill the post of head of government, or inability to form a new government following a vote of no confidence.

For the full text of the Paper, see here.