With the 50th Parliament having sat for the final time, Ministers and other MPs are now turning their attention to the election campaign. In this note, we set out the important dates and identify some of the key features of this pre-election period.

Key dates

The following timetable is established in part by the Constitution Act 1986 and the Electoral Act 1993:

14 August

Parliament dissolved

19 August

Pre-Election Economic and Fiscal Update released

20 August

Governor-General issues writ to Electoral Commission

20 September

Polling day

9 October

Electoral Commission returns writ, confirming result

20 November

Latest date on which Parliament will reconvene

As with previous MMP elections, it is likely that a period of inter-party negotiation will follow polling day itself. This could take anything from a few days to several weeks, depending on the outcome of the election.

Key features of pre-election period

Over the coming weeks, the public focus will inevitably be on campaign speeches and policy releases. Nevertheless, it is worth noting the following points:

  • When Parliament is dissolved on 14 August, all Parliamentary business (including bills working their way through the legislative process) will formally lapse. The new Government will decide which matters are to be reinstated in the new Parliament, and in what priority.
  • The current Government has full authority to govern during the pre-election period (and Cabinet will continue to meet weekly). The famous ‘caretaker convention’ only applies after polling day.
  • There are likely to be some restrictions on decision-making. For example, it is usual for the Government to postpone making significant appointments. Perhaps more importantly, Ministers are likely to be distracted by the campaign and so not in a position to make significant policy decisions.

We will keep you informed as matters progress.