Wellington, New Zealand – In a night that went down in history as the “Schnapps Election,” New Zealand’s Prime Minister Robert Muldoon stunned the nation on June 14th, 1984, by announcing a snap general election in a visibly intoxicated state. This impulsive decision, fueled by political pressures and personal frustrations, ultimately backfired, leading to a resounding defeat for his National Party.
Muldoon, known for his strong personality and confrontational tactics, had been facing growing economic woes and criticism over his leadership. Facing potential defections within his own party and a resurgent Labour Party led by charismatic David Lange, he made the gamble of calling an early election, hoping to catch his opponents off guard.
However, the televised announcement, where Muldoon appeared slurred and unsteady, backfired spectacularly. Nicknamed the “Schnapps Election,” it damaged his public image and fueled public anger. The opposition capitalized on the incident, portraying Muldoon as unfit for office.
The one-month campaign became a referendum on Muldoon’s nine-year rule. Voters, already dissatisfied with the government’s performance, were further alienated by the Prime Minister’s behavior.
On election day, the results were decisive. The National Party slumped to 36% of the vote, losing 24 seats, while the Labour Party surged to 43% and a comfortable majority in Parliament. The “Schnapps Election” not only marked the end of Muldoon’s era but also ushered in a period of significant political and economic change for New Zealand.