The Right Honourable James Brendan "Jim" Bolger (born 31 May 1935) was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1990 to 1997.
Bolger first entered politics in 1972 as a New Zealand National Party member of parliament. In 1975 he was a made a cabinet minister under Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.
He ran unsuccessfully for party leader in 1984. In 1986 he made a second attempt, and unseated Jim McLay as leader. After an unsuccessful election in 1987, in 1990 the National Party won a majority government and Bolger became Prime Minister.
Bolger's National government continued the economic and social reforms of the previous Labour government, with Finance Minister Ruth Richardson implementing drastic cuts in public spending, particularly in health and welfare. In addition, it continued the previous Labour government's anti-nuclear policy.
In spite of his party's opposition, Bolger held a referendum on whether or not New Zealand should change from the British style electoral system of 'first past the post' to one of proportional representation. In 1992, New Zealanders voted to change to the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system. This was confirmed in a binding referendum held at the same time as the 1993 general election, which National won. Bolger had originally proposed a return to a bicameral system, with an elected Senate, but this proposal was dropped in the face of support for electoral reform.
In 1994, Bolger caused surprise by suggesting that New Zealand should follow Australia by severing links with the British monarchy and become a republic, but this received little popular support, as did proposals to end the status of the Privy Council as the country's highest court of appeal. His government ended the awarding of British honours in New Zealand, introducing a New Zealand Honours System.
In 1996, New Zealand had its first election under MMP, and Bolger became caretaker Prime Minister, until a coalition with a majority in parliament could be formed. Both Bolger and Labour leader Helen Clark sought the support of New Zealand First, which held the balance of power in the new House. Its leader, Winston Peters, had left the National Party to form his own party, and opposed many of the free-market reforms implemented by National and Labour before it. In December of that year, a coalition was formed between National and New Zealand First, with Peters being appointed to the new post of Treasurer (senior to the already existing post of Finance Minister, which was given to National's Bill Birch).
In 1997, Bolger was ousted as leader by his party caucus, and was replaced as Prime Minister by Jenny Shipley. He retired as MP for Taranaki-King Country in 1998, prompting a by-election in that electorate. He was subsequently appointed as Ambassador to the United States. On his return to New Zealand, he was appointed Chairman of the state-owned Kiwibank. Bolger was made a member of the Order of New Zealand in 1997.
See also: Republicanism in New Zealand