6.54 Some transitions between administrations may occur during the electoral term. There may be a transition to a new Prime Minister, or to a new governing party or coalition. The guidance in paragraphs 6.55 - 6.61 sets out the established constitutional principles and processes that apply in these situations.
Mid-term change of Prime Minister with no change of government
6.55 A change of Prime Minister may occur because the incumbent Prime Minister resigns, or as a result of the retirement, incapacity, or death of the incumbent Prime Minister.
6.56 In appointing a new Prime Minister, by convention the Governor-General accepts the outcome of the political process by which an individual is identified as the leader of the government.
6.57 In some cases (for example, in the event of the sudden death or incapacity of a Prime Minister), the Deputy Prime Minister acts as Prime Minister in a temporary capacity until the leadership of the government is determined.
Mid-term change of government
6.58 A basic principle of New Zealand's system of responsible government is that the government must have the confidence of the House of Representatives to stay in office. A government may lose the confidence of the House during its parliamentary term.
6.59 In some cases, the confidence of the House may be unclear, for example, when coalition or support arrangements change. The incumbent government will need to clarify where the confidence of the House lies, within a short time (allowing a reasonable period for negotiation and reorganisation). The caretaker convention applies in the mid-term context only when it becomes clear that the government has lost the confidence of the House.
6.60 Where loss of confidence is clear (for example, where the government has lost a vote of confidence in the House), the Prime Minister will, in accordance with convention, advise that the administration will resign. In this situation, either:
- a new administration may be appointed from the existing Parliament (if an administration that has the confidence of the House is available—see the information about government formation in paragraphs 6.41 - 6.47); or
- an election may be called (see paragraphs 6.62 - 6.64).
6.61 Until a new administration is appointed, the incumbent government continues in office, governing in accordance with the caretaker convention (see paragraphs 6.21 - 6.40).