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.