It has become a media mantra that winning a fourth term of government is nigh on impossible, but is that claim actually based on the record of past governments or just a political myth?
The first government formed along party lines in New Zealand was the First Liberal Government, which took office in 1891. Since then, there have been thirteen party-based governments (twelve, if you count the 1928 United Government and the 1931 Reform-Liberal ‘National Coalition’ Government as the same government under a different name). Seven of them have faced an election to win a fourth term in Parliament. Four of those have succeeded in retaining power.
Those are pretty good odds: if a government wins a third term, it is more likely than not win a fourth term. That’s hardly a basis to say that winning a fourth term is rare or intrinsically unlikely. It certainly won’t be easy for Labour to win a fourth term but there is no reason to think the weight of history is against them.
Record of first term governments winning a second term: 9/13
Second term governments winning a third term: 8/9
Fourth term: 4/7
Fifth term: 2/4
Sixth term: 1/2
Seventh term: 1/1
Eighth term: 1/1