New Zealand election preview/live thread

As New Zealanders prepare to go to the polls tomorrow, John Key’s National Party government maintains its dominance in the polls.

Election night coverage

Summary. The National Party looks likely to achieve an absolute majority of 61 seats, having all but doubled Labour’s vote. At worst it will fall one seat short, and even that is looking less likely as the count reaches its conclusion for the night. United Future, ACT New Zealand and the Maori Party have won one seat each, so National would have been able to govern comfortably even it had fallen to 58, which clearly it has not. New Zealand First is on track for 11 seats, but the National Party’s dominance will leave it marginalised. Labour looks set to win 31 seats, and the Greens are doing less well than expected on 13. The Internet Mana ticket will emerge empty-handed, with Hone Harawira headed for defeat at Labour’s hands in his Maori seat of Te Tai Tokerau, and its party vote being exceedingly low. The Maori seats are Labour’s one bright spot – they look set to go from three seats out of seven to six, further winning two seats from the Maori Party. The other Maori seat will stay with the Maori Party, which will more likely than not supplement it with a second party list seat.

10.14pm. That forecast move away from the National Party in late counting is taking a long time to kick in, and sure enough, Antony Green’s projection now has the party “on the cusp” of making it to 61.

10.10pm. The Maori Party is keeping its head above water in the hunt for a second seat, its party vote up to 1.29% from the 1.27% observed in the previous entry.

10.00pm. One point of uncertainty I haven’t been discussing is whether the Maori Party wins a list seat to add to the one constituency seat it will retain. On current figures, their party vote would need to be about 1.2% at higher, and it’s currently 1.27%. Usually the party is in the opposite position, winning more constituency seats than their party vote entitles them to, resulting in an overhang – something we won’t get this time.

9.43pm. TVNZ continues to project 60 seats for National. When the NZEC says 76.9% counted, it means the number of individual polling place results, not the share of enrolled voters in the manner we’re familiar with in Australia. So 76.9% isn’t as much as it sounds, because many of the outstanding results to report will be large polling booths.

9.38pm. Harawira looking gone now, trailing by 467 votes and the trend rushing away from him. So a dismal night for Kim Dotcom, who is set to emerge empty-handed.

9.22pm. And now 246 …

9.17pm. … and now it’s 212.

9.16pm. Latest update in Te Tai Tokerau has Labour lead over Mana up from 13 votes to 177.

9.06pm. Hone Harawira of the Mana Party has fallen behind in a very tight race in the Maori seat of Te Tai Tokerau. So the chance of a seat for the Internet Party rests on two dubious prospects: Harawira to win the seat, and the Internet Mana party vote to clear about 1.4%.

9.05pm. TVNZ now has an actual projection, which I presume to be based on booth-matching, and it concurs with Antony Green in pointing to 60 seats for National.

8.52pm. Antony Green: “National now starting to look like it will fall short of a majority by a seat but will rely on ACT and Peter Dunne”. But: “It looks like a long wait till we know if National have a majority or not.”

8.26pm. The high vote for the National Party is looking stickier than I earlier indicated, when I said the trend was running against it. However, it seems we really have to wait to see how the trend looks when polling day numbers start to come in, as they will start to do very shortly.

8.14pm. Advanced votes appear to just be pre-polls.

8.08pm. Statistician on TVNZ dispels my idea that the early votes are from rural booths – they’re actually “advanced votes”, which I take to mean pre-polls and maybe also postals. However, it seems that these votes have traditionally been right-leaning. Actual election day votes aren’t expected to start coming in for another 20 minutes.

7.46pm. The trends as the party vote totals are updated are downwards for National and New Zealand First, upwards for the Greens, and serious-but-stable for Labour.

7.39pm. Ben Raue’s map of Ohariu suggests the bigger booths in the electorate are better for Peter Dunne than the smaller ones, so his 500 vote lead out of 11,074 counted will presumably be enough.

7.29pm. So the best guess at the moment is that we’ll have one seat each for United Future, ACT New Zealand and Maori Party; and that Mana Party will win one seat and possibly carry a list seat for the Internet Party. The National Party vote is currently giving it enough for a majority, but that will surely diminish as more results from the cities come in.

7.25pm. Labour leads in the two seats held by retiring Maori Party members, Tamaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauauru. Too early to call either though. Labour looking set to be returned in the three Maori seats it already holds.

7.23pm. Hone Harawira, the one incumbent of the Mana Party, leads Labour in his seat of Te Tai Tokerau with 10.3% counted, though not by an insurmountable margin.

7.19pm. Colin Craig no chance in East Coast Bays, but the Conservative Party is doing okay on the party vote at 4.55% with 9.3% counted. However, there’s no booth-matching here, and I suspect the Conservative Party will get its best results from the smaller rural booths that are coming in early. So most likely they will emerge empty-handed.

7.18pm. Peter Dunne of United Future leading in Ohariu, but you would want to see more than the current 3.3% current before ruling out Labour winning at his expense. However, the best guess is that the status quo will be retained for both of these very minor parties, who have one seat each.

7.15pm. Big early lead to ACT New Zealand’s David Seymour in Epsom – perhaps National has been playing dead there. Presumably though ACT will not get enough of the party vote to add to that.

7pm (NZ time). By unpopular non-demand, I will maintain this thread for purposes of live blogging the count rather than open a new one. Polls have closed now; official results here. If anyone knows of any media outlets who are presenting detailed results in more user-friendly form, please let me know. Nothing of the kind from Antony Green, alas, but he is on the scene and will at the very least be live blogging. Those interested on this side of the ditch should tune into ABC News 24, which is relaying the coverage of One New Zealand.

Saturday morning update

As threatened below, I’ve done a final update of the poll aggregate with the final two polls. The current trend results are National 46.5%, Labour 24.8%, Greens 12.9%, New Zealand First 7.6%, Conservative 4.2%, Internet Mana 1.5%, Maori 1.3%. That suggests National again just shy of a majority with 58 seats out of 121, Labour on 31, the Greens on 17 and New Zealand First on 10, a count which leaves five seats loose either for smaller parties, or perhaps extras on the tallies of the big four.

Original post

For my deeper thoughts on the subject of tomorrow’s New Zealand election, subscribe to Crikey if you haven’t already. My article today contains poll aggregate charts which appear to put National on about 45%, Labour on 24%, the Greens on 12%, New Zealand First on 8% and the Conservative Party on a bit over 4%. The question would appear to be whether the National Party becomes the first party gain a majority in its own right (which would be a first under the current system), continues to govern existing partners, or has to rely on the unreliable New Zealand First. An outside possibility is that Conservative Party enters the equation with the six or more seats it will get if it clears the 5% threshold. One way or another, Labour will be left to lick its wounds – unless perhaps New Zealand First behaves unpredictably in post-election horse trading.

New Zealand’s mixed-member proportional electoral system combines 71 electorate MPs with 49 party list MPs, the latter being doled out in such manner that a proportional result is created when they are combined with the electorate MPs. Voters thereby get separate votes for their local member, and for purposes of determining the overall partisan balance of the parliament. However, two factors affect the cleanness of the proportionality achieved under MMP. One is the 5% threshold that must be cleared by parties which fail to win constituency seats if they are to be dealt into the overall allocation of seats. Votes for parties which fail to qualify disappear from the the calculation, so the more of them there are, the lower the bar to be cleared to win a majority. The second is the potential for a party to win more constituency seats than their share of the national vote would ordinarily entitle them to, in which case the number of seats above parliament increases above 121 (known as an “overhang”). This is particularly a possibility for the parties that compete for the Maori seats.

It appears certain that National, Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First will win seats in proportion to the national party vote. The question is whether, or to what extent, they are joined by the Conservative, United Future, ACT New Zealand, Internet Mana and Maori parties. The Conservative Party could clear the threshold and win six seats or, more likely, win nothing. Kim Doctom’s party will win a list seat for the Internet-Mana joint ticket if it clears roughly 1.6% of the national vote, and the Mana Party’s sole incumbent holds his seat. Individual seats also hold the key for United Future and ACT New Zealand, both of whom have been on the scene since the early 1990s, and neither of whom retains enough support nationally to be a chance for a second seat. A number of the Maori electorates look very close, with both Maori and Mana appearing to struggle against Labour. The Maori Party has supported the ascendant National Party through its time in office, so that each seat it gains or (more likely) loses will be weighted in the balances for the government.

For the casual observer, the interest on election night will relate to the national party vote and six individuals, three general and three Maori:

Ohariu. A northern Wellington seat which does for the religious-turned-centrist United Future party what Epsom does for ACT New Zealand. Here though the seat is contested by incumbent Peter Dunne, who has held the seat since 1984, at first for Labour. Dunne had a very narrow win over Labour in 2011, and is presumably no certainty this time. United Future failed to win a bonus list seat in both 2008 and 2011.

Epsom. This inner Auckland seat is the parliamentary lifeline of the waning free-market ACT New Zealand party, and it looks in danger of being cut after its member, John Banks, resigned from parliament three months ago after being convicted of submitting a false electoral return. The seat was first won for the party by Rodney Hide at the 2005 election, which kept it alive as its national vote dropped well below the threshold. Hide succeeded in persuading Epsom voters that they could get more bang for their buck by supporting him ahead of the National Party incumbent, who in any case had a list seat to fall back on. ACT clung to enough of the national vote to get one extra seat in 2005 and 2008, but Epsom was all it had left after 2011. Hide retired at that election and was succeeded in Epsom by John Banks, but the party’s failure to win a second seat deprived it of its leader, former National Party leader Don Brash, who had counted on winning the party’s list seat. The new ACT candidate is David Seymour, who will presumably have his work cut out given he does not enjoy the advantage of incumbency.

East Coast Bays. A safe National Party seat in Auckland, held by Foreign Minister Murray McCully, being contested by Conservative Party leader Colin Craig. Just as Rodney Hide was able to do in Epsom in 2005, Craig can argue to National voters that McCully will win a list seat anyway, and a vote for him will deliver multiple seats to his party – perhaps four or five in total, going off the poll trend. That might have been to the broader advantage of National, which encouraged Craig in the belief that the party might lend him its tacit support. It wasn’t to be though, and the narrowness of Craig’s ideological appeal makes life difficult for him. The contest here raises interesting prospects for tactical voting, giving left-wing voters a strong incentive to vote National.

Maori electorates. The result of the seven Maori seats in 2011 was Labour three, Maori three and Mana one, of which the three Labour seats and one of the three Maori seats look safe this time. The Mana Party hoped to make gains, but polls suggest its alliance with Kim Dotcom has backfired – it is under pressure from Labour in its one existing seat of Te Tai Tokerau, held by party founder Hone Harawira, and it is Labour rather than Mana that appears to be threatening the Maori Party in Tamaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauauru, where two of the Maori Party’s three members are retiring.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

57 comments on “New Zealand election preview/live thread”

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  1. Simon baker

    [Key is also closer to Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop on the Liberal side of Australian politics than he is to the Abbott wing]

    I have no idea what this means.

    Apart from maybe a subtle use of language is the difference meaningful?

    They ll have the same objectives.

  2. I get the impression that the character of the Key Government is more Centrist like the Liberal Government in NSW and the Fraser Government federally, rather than the hard Right of the Federal Liberals under Howard and especially Abbott.

  3. Swamprat/Steve777/CTar1 Key, like Turnbull and Bishop supports gay marriage, indeed his government introduced it in New Zealand, and he accepts climate change, Abbott opposes gay marriage and does not accept climate change

  4. Perhaps the Key result is a bit like the South Australian/Western Australian State elections. Undecided voters might have just stuck with a reasonably competent premier/PM rather than take the risk of instability.

  5. What an incredible win for John Key. For a party to win a majority of seats in an MMPO system is quite extraordinary. I haven’t seen too many congratulations to him on this site, but let me offer mine. People waiting for that late shift back to Labor – looks like a long wait……

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