On the eve of the New Zealand election, two more polls signal that the nine-year-old Labour government of Helen Clark is in dire straits. The New Zealand Herald reports:
A One News Colmar Brunton Poll and TV3’s TNS Poll both have National with a respective 13 point lead and 12 point lead over Labour – two days from the election. National has more than 45 percent support in both polls, and would have the numbers, with support from ACT and United Future, to form a government. Both polls have Labour at 35 percent and below. With New Zealand First failing to make the five percent MMP threshold, the figures show Labour unable to muster the numbers to take the Treasury benches. The One News Colmar Brunton Poll showed National would have the numbers to govern even without the Maori Party – who are still being labelled as the kingmakers in this election. However Labour would lack the numbers necessary, even if it formed a coalition with the Greens, the Progressives and the Maori Party. The TV3 TNS Poll saw National up 1 per cent with 46 per cent support and Labour down 4.3 per cent on 33.1 per cent. John Key was the preferred Prime Minister on 36.4 per cent, with Helen Clark on 34.2 per cent. Both polls showed continued support for the Green Party on 9 per cent.
On the subject of New Zealand and its thresholds, I seek leave of the House to make a personal explanation. Writing in Crikey last week, Malcolm MacKerras accused me of conspiring to poison the minds of its impressionable readership with the heresy of MMP:
I fear that, following the New Zealand general election on Saturday week, I am likely to read either Charles Richardson or William Bowe singing the praises of New Zealand’s electoral system, known as “Mixed Member Proportional” or MMP. If I have read the two above-named men correctly it seems to me they belong to the view (regrettably all too common in psephological circles) that “any old” system of proportional representation is better than a non-proportional system.
I can only respond that MacKerras has indeed not read me correctly. Contrary to the prevailing modern view on this subject, I do not support proportional representation for lower houses in parliamentary systems, and believe Australia has struck the right balance in saving it for upper houses. My problem with lower house PR is that government formation becomes detached from the election itself: voters merely measure out bargaining power for the post-election horse trading that decides who actually wins, rather than casting a verdict on the government.
As for my alleged singing praise for MMP, I have two recollections of commenting on it in the past: once when I called it clunky, and once when I called it silly. As well as sharing the concerns MacKerras raised in his Crikey piece, I am also bemused by a system that entitles parties crossing a 5 per cent threshold to an instant six seats. The Green Party is polling strongly enough this time that it can probably rest easy, but in 2005 its vote was hovering around the do-or-die 5 per cent. It would surely be in everybody’s interests if so substantial a party could plan its parliamentary future without the fear that a slight shift in electoral fortune might condemn it to oblivion.
UPDATE: Two more polls. Fairfax-Nielsen points to a wipeout:
Today’s Fairfax-Nielsen poll shows National has opened up an 18-point lead – 49 per cent support compared with Labour’s 31 per cent – and a last-minute surge in support for ACT would put John Key in a position to pick his new Cabinet.
Better news for Labour from Roy Morgan:
On the eve of the 2008 Election the New Zealand Roy Morgan Poll shows National Party support at 42% (down 1%), a 7.5% lead over the Labour Party at 34.5% (up 2.5%) … Support for the Greens 10% (down 1.5%) is near its record high of 11.5%, while support for NZ First is 4.5% (unchanged), ACT NZ 4% (up 0.5%), the Maori Party 2.5% (unchanged), United Future 1% (up 0.5%) and Others and Independents 1.5% (down 0.5%).
Review by Antony Green here.
95 comments on “New Zealand election minus one day”
William, NZ turnout has been falling since they stopped holding a local option referendum with each general election. There was always a high turnout to ensure the wowsers didn’t ban pubs within council areas.
Would be interesting to see which side this overview would support but unfortunately I can’t tell the voting system for each of these countries from the top of my head…
With that surprise result in the UK, is the Carr Hypothesis still a goer? Does it need to be modified to the safest pair of hands/nearest to centre/most boring and unlikely to do anything risky with the economy? And if so, what result in NZ would verify or refute it?
Well there was still a 5% swing away from Labour in the UK.
And a 5% swing in a by-election means what exactly?
5% away is a lot better than the 20% swing that’s been slaughtering them recently.
[With that surprise result in the UK, is the Carr Hypothesis still a goer?]
Is it not dead. Tomorrow will prove it wrong again, no?
I don’t know who’s the more boring and safe economically in NZ, such is my lack of knowledge of NZ politics.
Seems like this was a mega-safe Scottish Labour seat where the Tories get single figures and the main battle is with the SNP. Not sure it’s that representative of the general election.
“I don’t know who’s the more boring and safe economically in NZ, such is my lack of knowledge of NZ politics.”
Well the Nationals are considered more economically right, however some of their policies during the election seem to draw parts of policy from the left, with Labor warning of the Nationals’ “hidden agenda”.
I suspect the Nationals are a bit more left than normal on the economy due to the general drift toward the left economically throughout the western world at the moment.
So what the Conservative Party wasn’t the main opposition in that by election. If the swing is on against a government in a big way it would show up. 5% in a by election against a very unpopular government is a great result for the government and there is no getting around that.
I thought that nearly all elections in recent times show that “safe with the economy” is a threshhold; no party with adequate rating will win sufficient support for government. Once the theshhold is crossed, however, the criterion is no longer determinative; perception as “most safe with the economy” is no guarantee of success.
Trying to assess uniform swings from by-elections. What has this place come to? 🙂
The Carr hypothesis is that the GFC will lead to changes in the way countries vote to favour centrists with a safe economic platform. The right and left will die. He put it much better than me. So it’s more than a threshold. It’s the primary concern.
Martin B 63 – Who is trying to do that?
I am doing this calculation for no particular reason but where else can I post it? 🙂
If list parliamentarians continue to be added by the formula until the last overhang electorate MP is allocated, then the current state of parties in the beehive would be:
Labour: 66 (+16)
National: 65 (+17)
NZ1st: 9 (+2)
Green: 9 (+3)
UF: 4 (+1)
Maori: 4 (+0)
ACT: 2 (+0)
Prog: 2 (+1)
Forty extra seats for almost no change in the bargaining power; and that was a close election. The chance of overhangs creating a bargaining imbalance tomorrow are still remote.
So one really can’t expect overhangs to be a problem.
No-one really 🙂 I merely agree with not reading too much into the precise size of the swing in Glenrothes particularly as to whether or not it is quantitative support for some vaguely defined theory…
Sounds implausible. 😉
Hi William – Apologies for not reading this post before writing today’s Crikey piece on NZ (very careless of me). I don’t know why Malcolm fingered you as a fan of MMP or PR in general. I agree with your point about the sudden jump from 0 to 6 seats; that’s why I’d reduce the threshold from 5% to 3%, altho in an ideal world there’d be no threshold at all.
Perhaps “wither” would be a better term than “die”. I haven’t done it justice. I think it’s part of this “militant centralism” movement, where the Centre are damn sure they are correct, and the Left and Right are wrong, instead of being a wishy-washy compromise of left and right policies.
Hmm, I hope that advocating tactical voting isn’t an NZ election crime 🙂
“I think it’s part of this “militant centralism” movement, where the Centre are damn sure they are correct, and the Left and Right are wrong, instead of being a wishy-washy compromise of left and right policies.”
As I was arguing the other day, these terms are largely relative anyway. The distinction between those emphasising the social aspects of the economy and hence more concerned to invest in social development for economic growth, and those who see the economy in terms of more narrowly fiscal indicators doesn’t appear likely to disappear anytime soon. If anything the GFC has just accentuated the former. OTOH I’m not expecting all merchant bankers to abandon the conservative side of the economic ground.
Has anyone mentioned this calculator on the nz election website
interesting to play with, may try with live results
“interesting to play with, may try with live results”
Hope they’ve got a good connection 🙂
The result of the by-election would not be irrelevant to many of the contests in Scotland.
Have they ever considered incorporating preferences into the electing of electorate MPs? (whether in NZ or elsewhere)
When I voted in the London elections earlier this year, it struck me as odd that you get to state a 2nd preference for the mayor but not for the local assemblyman.
I guess it doesn’t matter so much with MMP, as what you lose in the swings you pick up on the roundabouts.
Betfair has Labour at $6.40 at present and looking at this article there is not much in this election. Very tempting for the small change.
Scuse my going on about the Scottish result, but… that’s an absolutely dreadful result for the Lib Dems. 12.7% at the last election, 2.6% at the by-election. What happened there?
Thay voted tactically for the SNP to try to defeat Labour.
[altho in an ideal world there’d be no threshold at all.]
You want people who manage to get >1% of the vote nationally a seat in parliament? Every single group or organisation would incorporate themselves into a political party and manage to get a fair chunk of votes.
Look what happens in Israel. Every fringe group or extremist manages to get a seat or two and you get the balance of power being shared with people who got a tiny fraction of votes. Their threshold is 2% now but they’ve increased it a few times from 1%.
No I can’t see a reason to arbitrarily set a threshold. If people choose to wish to be represented by so-called extremists then that’s that.
[If people choose to wish to be represented by so-called extremists then that’s that.]
No, it’s not. Because then you get your Fielding like scenario except it’s in the House where Government is formed. So someone with 0.8% of the vote ends up deciding which party governs.
Except replace Fielding with the “National Front for the Liberation of Dingos”.
Fielding is a legitimately elected senator. Why he should have any less power is beyond me.
If you look at the reasoning for proportional representation, which is that parties should be represented in the parliament in a roughly equal proportion to the vote they receive, it doesn’t make sense for there to be a threshold. It defeats the whole purpose of the system.
Otherwise you just have an disproportionate system, such as we have.
[Otherwise you just have an disproportionate system, such as we have.]
There’s different levels of disproportion-ness. There’s a formula for calculating it that I can’t remember right now but gives a PR system like NZ’s with a 5% threshold a rating of 1.1. Pretty damn close. I don’t even want to think what Australia’s would be.
If you’re saying a PR system as to achieve perfect 1.0 proportionality then you’d have to increase the number of seats to the number of significant figures of the percentage vote since there’d be an artificial threshold anyway. Eg. in Australia our threshold would be 0.7% because of the number of seats.
Yes, there’s nothing wrong with the artificial threshold that I can see. If you receive less than that you are guaranteed less than one seat in the parliament.
For those among us who doubted the importance of UK Labour’s win in the latest by-election this article puts it all into perspective.
(Sorry William, not sure which thread this should go on seeing that this topic has been discussed here.)
Okay, nobody has really made any predictions as yet, so here goes:
If you couldn’t be bothered linking, I’m predicting a National minority government with ACT and United Future, with 63 seats in a 122 seat chamber comprised as follows: National 57, Labor 43, Greens 10, Maori 5, ACT 4, UFNZ 2, Progressive 1 and NZF 0 on major party primaries of 46/34.
“If the election is close, any overhang caused by the Maori Party is likely to be significant in determining the formation of government. It would be difficult for the Party to support Labor if the gap between the two major parties is too significant; however, they will be in a strong bargaining position to extract concessions from either party in their pursuits of a workable majority”
A very interesting prospect and I agree that it would be hard for the MP to support Labor if there is a wide gap in the primary (which you would have to suspect would be the case). I still suspect, however, that such support would result in a downturn in their vote at the next election.
Will William be doing live blogging of the NZ election?
Is there a live TV stream and/or radio stream anywhere that will be available online?
[ There’s different levels of disproportion-ness. There’s a formula for calculating it that I can’t remember right now but gives a PR system like NZ’s with a 5% threshold a rating of 1.1. Pretty damn close. I don’t even want to think what Australia’s would be. ]
You’re looking for the Gallagher index. I just mocked it up for the last Australian federal election – it’s 10.33 for the House of Reps, and 6.96 for the Senate (counting only the 40 senators elected in 2007). Not great compared to NZ (1.1 for the 2005 election, in the linked article), but then it’s a heap better than Singapore. Their electoral system is flat-out scary.
3 News has live streaming from 7 tonight.
Gotta love Singapore where you get told by the Government that if you vote for another party they will let your services go and let you live in a slum.
So will TVNZ here: http://tvnz.co.nz/view/news_minisite_index_skin/news_election_08_group
No idea which will be better coverage…
New thread (so yes, in answer to Swing Lowe’s question).
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