What are Micro-Parties?


Since the dawn of time there have been people who have stood outside of the mainstream. In the cruel and primordial days of humanity’s existence these individuals were denied the fruits of companionship and banished out of the tribe, confined to wandering in the bitter bitter cold of the outside world, eventually succumbing to death. In the enlightened and progressive world of the 21st century, the intellectual descendants of these individuals form political parties and are banished out of the hallowed circle of the political mainstream, confined to wandering the bitter, bitter cold of electoral non-viability, eventually succumbing to infighting and eventual political death. Clearly, not much has changed in over 40000 years of history.


Bland and unfunny ‘humour’ aside, a micro party (also known, perhaps more fittingly, as a minnow party) is any political party which has failed to reach what the powers above consider to be an absolute minimum ammount of support one must have in order to enter the governing classes. These many and unlucky band of brothers consist of all political stripes and types. From Far-Right neonazis (Nationalist Alliance, National Democrats) to Far-Left Communists (Worker’s Party, RAM) to Centrist-Populists-Peterists (New Zealand First) these unlikely groups are united only in their inability to cross a 5% threshold or win an electorate seat.


There is a hierarchy associated with micro-parties. At the top tier( Tier One) are parties recently thrown out of the halls of power, the baubbles of office freshly lifted off their backs. These parties have a reasonable chance of making it back in the next election, but in the event they fail to do so, they will forever be consigned to the rubbish-bin of history. Arguably, only New Zealand First belongs in this category, being only 0.7% away from making it back into Parliament. A wide gulf separates this top tier from the next one.


On the next tier (Tier Two) are the parties that could plausibly get into Parliament given the right circumstances. The ‘right circumstances’ can be defined as (1) Charismatic leader(s) (2) Good, coherent policies which will be accepted by the average kiwi (3) A national infrastructure (4) A base of support in the urban centers (or at least Auckland.) and most importantly (5) Favourable conditions. A party can work towards getting the first four, but unless the fifth is present, it won’t be able to break the relative inertia of established parties. I have included two micro parties which I feel could get into Parliament: The Kiwi Party and the Alliance Party. Both parties will have only one way to get into parliament and that is to fill the electoral niche that will be left by the disappeance of Jim Anderton’s Progressive Party and Peter Dunne’s United Future Party. Jim Anderton isn’t getting any younger and the disappearance of the Progressive’s only MP, Matt Robson will mean that the Progressives probably won’t survive Anderton’s retirement. The same scenario applies to United Future.


On the very bottom are parties who are so far from the mainstream that there is no way they could plausibly enter Parliament. These are the parties which haven’t been mentioned in either tier one or tier two and not even when Hell freezes over, pigs grow wings and cliches start writing themselves will they ever make it into parliament. I will explore these parties in more detail in my next column. Micro Parties: An anatomy of electoral failures.


6 responses to “What are Micro-Parties?

  1. Hm… I am now puzzled about two things

    1) Are UF and JAP micro parties? They’re pretty damned micro, but they are in Parliament.

    2) How easy it to tell the difference between some of the micro parties and community organisations and/or unions?

  2. Hi. I too am puzzled. Remember that I’m a noob at these things, but I’ll answer your questions the best I can.

    1. I didn’t state that they were micro parties. For me, a micro party to be a micro party has to be outside of Parliament. So I don’t think that they are micro parties.

    2. Sometimes the line is very blurry. I’ve decided to do a cop out and just define a micro party as any collection of people outside of parliament who declare themselves to be a political party.

  3. 1) I didn’t think you did, but I’m not sure why they’re not 🙂

    2) Yeah, hard to know in between elections tho. Cos RAM will tootle around with issues this year, then run hard out in the local body elections next year, then suddenly flick the national political party switch in mid 2011.

  4. 3) Do you really think NZF has a show of getting back in Parliament?!

    • 3. I think they will make it back into Parliament the way Labour’s going. Phil Goff isn’t exactly exciting and if this holds until 2011 enough Labour voters will jump ship to prop Peters up and sink Labour. The worst case scenario for Labour will be analogous to National’s 2002 result where they got just over 20% of the vote.

      It will be an interesting challenge for Labour to being perceived as destined to lose, because if they become ‘irrelevant’ soft Labour voters will switch votes to prevent ACT from exercising too much influence. Let’s not forget that the Labour Party will be under attack from 4 fronts in 2011. 1. NZ First will be attracting social conservative votes away. 2. The Maori Party will become more attractive for Maori voters, bad news for Labour as they were once a solid bedrock of Labour votes. 3. the Green Party will be attracting Labour’s left-liberal vote and finally 4. A moderate National Party will be attracting Labour’s immigrant and ‘middle New Zealand’ vote.

  5. Labour 2008 = National 1999
    Losing office after 3 terms causes bewilderment and consternation. Party true believers cannot accept the election result and continue with the old discarded programs. Another election defeat will be a reality check and then the real soul-searching and spring-cleaning will commence.

    BTW What happened to the New Zealand (Bob Jones) Party? I believe the Alliance is still functioning (but in a zombie-like state). Remember Social Credit, McGillicuddy Serious, various embarrassing Christian flops? This should be fun!

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