New Zealand election minus one day

A brief and somewhat inexpert guide to tomorrow’s election in New Zealand, where late polling has complicated expectations of a conservative victory.

Tomorrow is election day in New Zealand, with the conservative National Party under Christopher Luxon favourites to depose a two-term Labour government that Chris Hipkins has led since succeeding Jacinda Ardern in January. Polls suggest the best Labour can hope for is a balance of power position for populist veteran Winston Peters and his New Zealand First party, between Labour and the Green Party on the left and National and Act New Zealand on the right. This would replicate the situation when Peters unexpectedly threw in his lot with Jacinda Ardern and Labour after the 2017 election. Labour’s landslide re-election under Ardern in October 2020 decimated National and evicted New Zealand First altogether, but National has enjoyed a recovery under Luxon’s leadership while Peters has benefited from a familiar wave of anti-major party sentiment.

Labour has been a been a long slide in the polls ever since, which appeared to be briefly arrested when Hipkins came to the leadership in January but resumed thereafter. However, polls from the last week have recorded movement back to the left: Reid Research has National down from 39.1% to 34.5% since mid-September and Act steady on 8.8%, with Labour up from 26.5% to 27.5% and Green up from 14.2% to 14.9%; 1News-Verian had Labour up two from a week previous to 26% and Green up one to 14%, with National up one to 37% and ACT down one to 9%; and an Essential Research poll for The Guardian had Labour up from 26.9% to 30.3% since a month and Green down from 11% to 10.6%, with National down from 34.5% to 34% and ACT down from 10.3% to 7.9%.

New Zealand First has consistently been polling in the range of 6% to 8%, putting them over the threshold of 5% that entitles parties to shares of the 120-or-so seats in parliament proportionate to their share of the vote. That would leave the party blocs of left and right needing upwards of 46% to secure a majority of seats without help from New Zealand First, which would come down to about 43% if New Zealand First failed to clear the bar, putting a vote share of nearly 5% out of contention. The latest polls generally have both blocs short of the former figure, although National and ACT are at 46% between them in 1News-Verian. A caveat in all this is that the pollsters had a bigger failure in 2020 than the one they had suffered in Australia the previous year, though because the winner was called correctly it attracted notice. Three final week polls gave Labour an average lead over National of 46.3% to 31.4%, when the actual result turned out at 50.0% to 25.6%.

Poll Bludger contributor Adrian Beaumont, who has been following the campaign more closely than I have, had an update yesterday in The Conversation that offered the following on what to expect from the count:

We’ll only have a clearer picture once polling booths close at 7pm (5pm AEDT) on Saturday, when all ordinary votes cast at early voting centres or on election day will begin to be counted. There are also “special votes”, usually cast by voters outside their home electorate (similar to absent votes in Australia). In the past, these have benefited parties on the left, which can take another one or two seats over the preliminary results. If past practice is a guide, however, there will be no updates to the published results after election night until the official results (which include special votes) are released on November 3.

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.

18 comments on “New Zealand election minus one day”

  1. National seem to be home but how they make up their government is really the only question.
    Labour’s performance is a cautionary tale that a big win in an election can lead to defeat at the next. They seem to have lost almost half their vote in one electoral cycle. Hipkins doesn’t seem to be too bad as a leader but that doesn’t seem to be helping.

  2. I don’t think National are home completely, the NZ electoral system is prone to weird outcomes.

    I would definitely expect National to form the next Government – but Peters is an absolute wildcard.

  3. The distance between Peters and the Greens seems to have increased. The likelihood of deal there is less than 2017. Although what he could get in an National-ACT-NFP deal is probably not deputy PM that he got in 2017. He might try for foreign minster again. The other thing is he is 78 years old; so this might be his last hoorah.

  4. My Conversation article has graphs showing the poll trends. Te Pāti Māori/the Māori party is also counted with the left. They could benefit from an “overhang”, where one party wins more single-member seats than they should be entitled to given their party vote.

    A candidate’s death will mean a postponed election in that seat, which will benefit National.

  5. I’ve just gone in on Sportsbet at $1.15 for the Nationals – but Spain shows that the right wing coalition that the media tells you is a dead certainty – may not be quite so.

  6. From what I’ve seen of Christopher Luxon, he certainly comes across as a slimy marketing guru very much like Scott Morrison. Yet also the polling trend seems to be clear that New Zealand voters have had a gutful of Labour and seem prepared to change governments.

    If, as it seems likely, New Zealand First becomes the balance of power, and also seems likely that they’ll back a minority National-ACT government, it’ll prevent Luxon going the full Morrison in terms of corruption and will be held accountable, much like the NSW 1991-95 parliament when the conservative Independents held Greiner’s government accountable.

  7. Keep an eye of the seat of Ilam. Raf Manji, the leader of the Opportunities Party (they seem centrist, mostly harmless) is running there. They’re polling around 2%, but if he wins the seat he could drag a colleague or two in, like Peter Dunne did with United Future a few times. He came second in 2017 with 23%, behind Gerry Brownlee (long-term Nat). Labour won it in the 2020 landslide but probably won’t again, so it could be interesting. Both National and Labour candidates have low list spots, so it’s win or bust for them.

    Interesting twist in the Maori seats: Meka Whaitiri won Ikaroa-Rawhiti for Labour in 2020, but has since defected to the Maori Party and is running for them there. If she doesn’t win that, she’s #3 on their list so might get in anyway.

    Also, National are running candidates in two of the Maori seats, which they don’t normally do. I wonder what game they’re trying to play there – both seats were marginal Labour vs Maori Party in 2020.

  8. Kirsdarke says:
    Friday, October 13, 2023 at 3:59 pm

    From what I’ve seen of Christopher Luxon, he certainly comes across as a slimy marketing guru very much like Scott Morrison.

    Yes but luckily for NZ he doesn’t seem to bring too much of his faith into politics

  9. Imagine watching the conservatives in Australia, the UK and the USA and thinking “yeah, that news corp backed incompetence will do nicely here.”


  10. Chris Hipkins is a very likeable bloke but I suspect Ardern left him a lot of political damage and mess to clean up combined with a few cabinet resignations over the past 6 months or so. But NZ’s electoral system is so complicated that the result tomorrow night will certainly be a messy one.

  11. (Reposted from TallyRoom)

    Historically since 1990, NZ governments have been elected for 3 terms, However history goes against Labour simply because no Prime Minister has won back to back elections after succeeding another person in their party since Peter Fraser in the 1940’s. every single time a PM has replaced someone in their party, they went down to defeat, here are all the occasions…

    1957: National PM Keith Holyoake lost to Labour after succeeding Sidney Holland as PM.
    1972: National PM Jack Marshall lost to Labour after succeeding Keith Holyoake as PM.
    1975: ”Citizens For Rowling” Bill Rowling lost to National in a landslide after succeeding the deceased Norman kirk
    1990: Mike Moore succeeded 2 Labour prime ministers and failed to keep his party in power in 1990.
    1999: Jenny Shipley succeeded Jim Bolger and yet again failed to end this streak of losing when a new PM takes over.
    2017: You could say it sort of ended here because National did really well in this election and only failed to form government because NZ first decided to back the 2nd place finisher Labour party. However Bill English ceased to be prime minister.
    2023: ?

    National was really smart picking Luxon, didn’t we just come out of a global pandemic with airlines closed and we were all locked down and couldn’t travel abroad? Very smart move to pick a former airline boss who’s airlines were affected by Covid. Genius

  12. I suspect Labour will manage to form a minority government, or rather attain support from some of the smaller parties to form a coalition government.

  13. Okay, here’s an interesting quirk of MMP!

    Assuming no overhang seats, there would usually be 72 electorate + 48 list = 120 seats total, and the proportionality calculations are based on that number.

    Because a candidate died in Port Waikato after close of nominations, there’s no election for the electorate vote, but there’s still one for the party vote (like the rest of the country). There will still be 120 MPs elected at the general election from the party vote, but now that’s 71 electorate + 49 list = 120 total, with the electorate seat of Port Waikato left vacant until a by-election six weeks later. When that happens, there’ll be 121 seats.

    Whoever wins the Port Waikato by-election will effectively end up with an overhang seat. Usually this area is safe National, but they only got 39% in 2020. Something called the Heartland Party (rural, anti-carbon tax, anti etc etc) came a strong third with 21%. They don’t seem to exist any more, but there’s obviously room for a third party to scoop some votes. If the general election is close enough that it makes building a coalition tricky, there’ll be a bundle of parties throwing the kitchen sink at this one.

  14. I read the NZ news everyday on the stuff website ( they have two very good trivia quizzes each day) my observation having never set foot in kiwi would be that Australia looms large in NZ. They constantly compare their situation with ours. We earn more, everything is cheaper and the biggy everyone is moving here to experience the good stuff!! In ausssie the things that gain the Conservatives votes are / were security, fear of Muslims/ religious extremism/ boat arrivals and drummed up downward envy of dole bludgers etc. The perception is that the Conservatives have a magic wand that makes us all rich, sorts out the dole bludgers, stops the illegal arrivals scares off great powers through aggressive language. Reality is quite the opposite on most of these issues ( I’ll admit they did neutralise the boat issue in fairly brutal fashion.)and that religious extremism of the Christian variety is a big problem in the conservative ranks. NZ voters seem to think that Luxon being a business man will get NZ up in the economic stakes and stop the flow of young people to the bright lights and sunny skies of Aussie. I very much doubt this will happen but must admit that Labor in NZ could have perhaps been a bit more dynamic from what I’ve read and they don’t have a rabid right wing Murdochracy to deal with.

  15. The momentum of the National winning the plurality should propel them to a by-election victory in Port Waikato unless something very strange happens.

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