Most registered parties operate independently and contest the party vote and/or electorate seats. However, the Electoral Act allows registered parties to jointly contest general elections by allowing one or more parties to be a component party of another registered party.
The Electoral Act defines a component party as a political party that is a member of the registered party or the applicant party (the umbrella party), or a political party that has combined some or all of its membership with that of another political party and thereby formed the registered party or the applicant party or augmented the membership of such a party (section 3 of the Electoral Act).
As the definition suggests, there are different ways that a component party/umbrella party situation can arise. For example:
- Several unregistered parties could unite under an umbrella and the umbrella party registers to contest the party vote.
- Registered parties could unite under an umbrella party.
- A combination of registered and unregistered parties could unite under an umbrella party.
- A registered party could become part of another registered party.
If a new umbrella party is formed the new party must apply to be registered and must include a declaration that it has component parties. The new party must meet all the requirements for registration, including providing evidence that it has at least 500 current financial members. Membership fees already paid by current members of a component party would not be sufficient to be a current financial member of the new party.
Examples of parties jointly contesting elections under an umbrella party include:
- The Alliance (consisting of component parties NewLabour Party, the Democrat Party, Mana Motuhake, the Greens and the Liberal Party) at the 1993, 1996 and 1999 general elections.
- Internet MANA (consisting of the Internet Party and MANA Movement component parties) at the 2014 general election.
In terms of contesting electorates, candidates from the umbrella party will usually contest electorates under the umbrella party name and logo. In which case, the candidate will appear in alphabetical order on the electorate vote side of the ballot paper with the umbrella party logo to the right of their name and the umbrella party name will appear opposite on the party vote side of the ballot paper, with the same logo to the left of the party name. Alternatively, component party candidates may contest the electorates under the component party name and any registered logo of the component party. Where an umbrella party contests the party vote, the party list may also include candidates from any component parties.
Where a component party stands candidates to contest the electorate vote, the space on the party vote side of the ballot paper opposite the candidate is blank and the umbrella party logo does not appear next to the candidate’s name. If the component party has a registered logo, this is the logo that would appear next to the candidate’s name. The umbrella party would be listed alphabetically on the party vote side of the ballot paper with the other parties not contesting the electorate vote.
Under the Electoral Act, for the purpose of determining whether an umbrella party has won a constituency seat, a winning candidate that stood for a component party of that umbrella party can be counted as long as the component party did not contest the party vote.