Media wrong on by-election

Both National Radio and the NZ Herald have been saying that if John Tamihere resigns, Helen Clark will have to name the election date to avoid a by-election.

This is wrong.

There are two different sub-sections of the Electoral Act that can be used to avoid a by-election.

Section 131(b) states Following the tabling in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister of a document informing the House that a general election is to be held within 6 months of the occurrence of the vacancy, a resolution is passed by a majority of 75 percent of all the members of the House of Representatives to the effect that a writ is not to be issued to supply the vacancy.

But the media have overlooked Section 131(a) which says The vacancy arises in the period of 6 months ending with the date of the expiration of the Parliament and a resolution that a writ not be issued to supply the vacancy is passed by a majority of 75 percent of all the members of the House of Representatives.

And the House expires in August 2005, so any vacancy from February 2005 onwards can be dealt with under Section 131(a).

UPDATE: The Dominion Post also gets this wrong saying “But that would force it into either a messy by-election against the Maori Party, or force Miss Clark to declare her hand on an election date”. That is almost all the major media repeating not just wrong information, but quite critically important wrong information.

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