Between Populism and Pluralism: Winston Peters and the International Relations of New Zealand First

  • David B. MacDonaldEmail author
Part of the Global Political Sociology book series (GLPOSO)


Aotearoa New Zealand is a small but wealthy country, geographically located in the South Pacific, yet strongly interlinked economically, culturally, and militarily to other western settler states as well as to Western Europe. NZ is known for punching above its weight in international relations, and for being a committed liberal internationalist player and promoter of a rules-based global order. NZ may therefore seem an unlikely host for an electorally successful populist party, which is known for its disdain of political correctness and identity politics, its anti-elitism and its dog whistle politics against Asians, Muslims, and some aspects of biculturalism between settlers and Indigenous Maori. Yet New Zealand First (NZF) has played an important role in the electoral system since its formation in 1993, routinely taking a key role in coalition governments. In this chapter, I use the example of NZF to problematize the relationship between populism and democracy as it is often articulated in the recent populism literature. Jan-Werner Müller in particular has argued that populism is by its very nature opposed to pluralism. Yet, electorally successful populist parties can demonstrate their longevity by embodying elements of both populism and pluralism, depending on whether they are in government or not, and whether or not they are in the midst of an election campaign.


Populism New Zealand First Foreign policy Winston Peters 



For background interviews my thanks to Winston Peters, Ben Appleton, Shane Jones, Asenati Lole-Taylor, Asraf Chaudhury, Phil Goff, Peta Sharples, Te Ururoa Flavell, Margaret Mutu, Moana Jackson, Hekia Parata, Elizabeth Rata, Chris Laidlaw, Jian Yang, Joris De Bres, Stephen May, and Paul Spoonley. My thanks also to Dirk Nabers, Frank Stengel, and Robert Patman. Chris Ryan, Jackie Gillis, Brian Budd, and Lisa Phillips helped with formatting, transcriptions, and other important matters. This research is funded by SSHRC grant 430201.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of GuelphGuelphCanada

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