New Zealand Law Society - Cabinet Office outlines pre-election period requirements

Cabinet Office outlines pre-election period requirements

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A Cabinet Office circular has been released to provide guidance on government decisions and actions during the three months before the 2020 general election.

The election will be held on Saturday 19 September and the "pre-election period' will commence on Friday, 19 June.

The circular, Government Decisions and Actions in the Pre-election Period, says the government continues to have full power to govern until the election. The caretaker convention does not apply in the pre-election period.

However, successive governments have exercised restraint in the pre-election period in two main areas, it says. These are when making significant appointments and when taking action that might result in government advertising campaigns being held during the pre-election period.

"On some occasions in the past, Ministers have sought advice about whether specific actions or decisions should be taken in the pre-election period. It is for the Prime Minister to make the final decision as to whether or not a decision or action (including a significant appointment) should proceed during the pre-election period," the circular says.

"From a practical perspective, the election period can be a difficult time for Ministers to focus on big or difficult policy questions. A general election always results in a period of reduced decision-making capacity at the ministerial and Cabinet level, while Ministers are occupied with the election campaign.

"It is important for Ministers, departments, and other state sector agencies to ensure that all significant matters that will require ministerial attention in the course of the election year are dealt with well in advance of a general election. Chief executives should talk to their Ministers in the earlier part of the year about the matters that Ministers wish to see advanced before the election, and agree on timeframes for getting the relevant papers to Ministers and to Cabinet."