New Zealand election live

12.40am. If the election had been single-member first-past-the-post on current boundaries, the result would have been National 41 seats, Labour 21, Maori 5, minor parties 3. Make that preferential, and give Labour 75 per cent of Greens preferences and split the others evenly, and there’s little change: National 40, Labour 22, Maori 5, minor parties 3.

10.55pm. Regarding that ninth Green Party seat, Antony Green writes: “Unlike Australia, they do not count special (absent, postal etc) votes progressively, but as a lump in about 12 days time. It will be two weeks before they do the final allocation of seats.” Strong Green performance on special votes has been a notable feature of past elections.

10.45pm. Green Party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons addressing supporters. Haven’t mentioned them much because the result has left them marginalised. The party has gained two seats, from six to eight, although Fitzsimons is holding out for an ninth. Not bad, but less than the polls had indicated.

10.38pm. Labour and NZ First principals venting about the media, in time-honoured fashion.

10.33pm. Peter Dunne confirmed in his speech 10 minutes ago that he would back a National government, and there’s no doubt left that that’s what we’ll be seeing.

10.28pm. However, Labour has taken the lead in Christchurch Central, where they trailed earlier after winning by 23.7 per cent in 2005 – though I can’t speak for redistribution effects.

10.20pm. Nikki Kaye has won for National in Auckland Central, in what seems to be the biggest electorate seat boilover. Labour won by 9.3 per cent in 2005, presumably on different boundaries.

10.14pm. Remember that when Elections NZ says 90 per cent counted, they mean 90 per cent of booths counted. The ones outstanding are presumably big ones, mostly in Auckland. So the current 45.6-33.6 gap might narrow a little further than you’d think.

10.01pm. Peter Dunne home and hosed in Ohariu, Maori seats now definitely 5-2. Only question is how things are looking beyond 61 seats. National still slowly losing ground, but will win at least 58 seats, ACT NZ looking very good for five, maybe only four if they’re unlucky. No question that we’ll be seeing a National-ACT NZ government.

9.48pm. Antony: “The best estimate I see for the new Parliament is 58 National, 5 ACT plus Peter Dunne – Right with 64, then 44 Labor, 8 Green, Jim Anderton, giving the Left 53, plus 5 Maori. 122 seat Parliament.” Third on the ACT NZ list is Roger Douglas, Treasurer in David Lange’s Labour government in the 1980s famed for his free-market reforms, who could well be back in cabinet.

9.45pm. National vote edges down enough to cost them a seat, so make that National 59 and ACT NZ 5.

9.37pm. We’re likely looking at an overhang of two, so 61 will be a majority with an independent Speaker. Current figures suggest National 60 and ACT NZ five, although the former are fading a little.

9.33pm. Little change in Te Tai Tonga with a big advance in the vote, so the Maori seats are firming up as five Maori Party and two Labour Party, with a very remote possibility that Labour might yet make that 4-3 with Te Tai Tonga.

9.30pm. Big advance in the Ohariu count, but the vote has changed very little, so Peter Dunne should be home.

9.28pm. National Party down to 46.7 per cent with 56 per cent counted, so the prospect of majority government is diminishing.

9.21pm. Antony sticking with his 45-35 prediction.

9.20pm. New Zealand First surely gone now, fading to 4.3 per cent with 47.4 counted.

9.19pm. Labour beginning to gain a little on the National Party as the southern Auckland vote comes in.

9.18pm. Maori seats. Labour home in Ikaroa-Rawhiti; probably done enough in Hauraki-Waikato; only slightly behind in Te Tai Tonga 44.2 to 41.8 per cent, but with 60.3 counted the Maori Party candidate is probably home. Other four seats held by the Maori Party.

9.15pm. Local observers excited the National candidate is ahead in Auckland Central, and in the hunt in Christchurch Central.

9.13pm. Silly woman on Radio New Zealand complaining that UNZF and Progressive Party are in parliament with a small share of the national vote. Of all the criticisms to make of MMP …

9.11pm. Peter Dunne back down from 33.2 to 32.6 per cent in Ohariu with 26.1 per cent. Still likely to win with Labour second on 29.7 per cent, though worth keeping an eye on. It’s probably only his own seat that’s at stake: party’s national vote is 0.9 per cent, whereas they would need at least 1.5 per cent for a second seat (more if NZ First makes the threshold).

9.04pm. National vote count up to 34 per cent, and the National vote still a strong 47.8 per cent. However, ACT NZ is looking at five seats and far the most likely result is a National-ACT coalition. Antony Green discusses talk of Peter Dunne being made Speaker.

8.58pm. Count in Ohariu up to 19.6, Peter Dunne gains a bit of ground from 32.1 to 33.2.

8.54pm. Antony: “Really looking like National 45%, Labour 35% at this stage. National plus ACT still looking at just reaching a majority.”

8.53pm. Commentators on 3News expect NZ First to lose ground when special votes are admitted.

8.51pm. Assuming NZ First don’t pull a rabbit out of the hat, it’s looking like the vote for excluded parties will be 6.5 per cent, meaning the National Party will need a bit under 47 per cent to get a majority.

8.50pm. Labour looking increasingly safe in the Maori seat of Ikaroa-Rawhiti, leading 51.3 to 41.6 with 28.2 reporting.

8.44pm. Antony confirms that the booth votes should even up the vote in the terms I suggested earlier, to about 45-35 in favour of the National Party. Booths currently coming in are very small ones. City booths later on should see Labour and the Green Party go up (from 31.3 and 6.3 at present, to the National Party’s 48.7).

8.43pm. Jim Anderton has opened up a handy lead in Wigram, 42.4 per cent to 32.4 per cent National.

8.42pm. 15.2 per cent of booths in from Ohariu, and Peter Dunne has faded a little further to 32.1 per cent, against 29.2 per cent Labour and 28.3 per cent National.

8.35pm. Maori Party still looking good in Te Tai Tonga, leaving two of the seven in doubt but favouring Labour.

8.29pm. Labour still looking good in the Maori seat of Ikaroa-Rawhiti: leading 49.7 to 43.7 with 12.9 counted (that’s 12.9 per cent of booths, not votes).

8.27pm. No great change in Ohariu with count up from 4.3 to 8.7 per cent.

8.21pm. Commentator on Radio NZ makes the point that the higher NZ First gets without crossing the threshold, the lower the vote the National Party needs for an absolute majority. At present the NZ First is almost exactly where the National Party would want it – 4.5 per cent.

8.17pm. Count in Ohariu up from 4.3 per cent to 6.5 per cent, and Peter Dunne is up from 33.2 per cent

8.15pm. Much as we saw in ACT, we appear to be in a lull between the entry of “advance” votes and booth votes in significant numbers.

8.10pm. Peter Dunne of United Future NZ is down on raw figures from 45.9 per cent to 33.2 per cent in Ohariu with 4.3 per cent counted. He may have suffered from the redistribution which changed the name of his seat from Ohariu-Belmont. At the moment it’s a tight three-horse race: Dunne 1197, National 1032, Labour 1001.

8.03pm. Antony: “The advance votes tell us National will win. But did the gap between National and Labor tighten at the end of the campaign? If it did, then it might be closer. Will Labor plus the Greens come close to National plus ACT? It doesn’t look like Peter Dunne or Jim Anderton will do anyhting other than elect themselves.”

7.58pm. No change in Maori seats: the Maori Party leads in five, but trails slightly in Ikaroa-Räwhiti and Hauraki-Waikato.

7.50pm. Antony on the advance vote: “in 2005, Labor rose from 36.8% to 41.1% at the end of the count, National from 43.5% to 39.1%, Green 4.8% to 5.3%, NZ First 6.1% to 5.7%, United NZ 3.0% to 2.7%, Maori 1.6% to 2.1%.” Does that mean the current raw figures of National 49, Labour 31.5, Green 6, NZF 4.5 should be adjusted to National 44.5, Labour 36, Green 6.5 and NZF 4?

7.48pm. Winston Peters now getting thrashed in Tauranga, and NZ First national vote has faded a little to 4.6 per cent with 4.6 per counted.

7.45pm. ACT NZ on 3.3 per cent so far, and I imagine would go higher with big Auckland booths, compared with 1.5 per cent (two seats) in 2005.

7.41pm. TVNZ projecting a slight National Party majority with 63 seats out of 123, the remainder going 40 Labour, 8 Greens, 6 Maori, 4 ACT New Zealand, one each for Progressive and United Future New Zealand. Even if the National Party is reined in a little from here, they could surely rely on backing from ACT NZ.

7.34pm. Antony (hell, just read his blog): “Models are looking better for Labor than the raw vote, but still not enough to prevent a change of government.”

7.30pm. Antony reckons we’re in for “quite a wait” to see if the National Party wins a majority – but if those are the stakes, it seems there’s very little prospect of any kind of Labour government being formed.

7.28pm. However, Labour leads 730-632 in Ikaroa-Räwhiti. Maori leads of varying sizes in the other five.

7.26pm. Antony projects five of seven Maori seats going to the Maori Party, but the first one I’ve looked at is the one reckoned Labour’s best chance of hanging on (Hauraki-Waikato), and Labour’s lead is only 490-475.

7.24pm. Antony Green reports: “Early models are matching votes up in line with current percentages, which would point to a National majority government.”

7.19pm. Very early results provide hope for NZ First: they’re bobbing around the threshold mark, and Winston Peters leads in Tauranga 236 votes to 224.

7.18pm. National vote with 3 per cent counted: National 49, Labour 32, Green 6 per cent, NZ First 4.5 per cent.

7.17pm. Jim Anderton comfortably ahead in Wigram with 2 of 64 booths reporting.

7.15pm. Peter Dunne only slightly ahead in Ohariu, with 2 of 46 booths reporting.

7.12pm. Antony Green says the “first advance votes” are in line with the polls: National high 40s, Labour mid-to-high 30s, Greens 7 per cent, NZ First 3.8 per cent.

7.10pm. It doesn’t look like they’re providing booth-level figures for tonight’s count either, which pretty much leaves us completely in the dark. In 2005 the early count looked diabolical for Labour to the untrained eye, but that was because rural booths were coming in early. If any media outlets are making the effort to match booth results, I would be pleased if someone could bring it to my attention.

7.02pm. Curses to the NZ Electoral Commission, which claims to have CSV files of booth-level results from 2005 on its site – but all the links are broken. Let’s hope it gets a lot better from here.

7.00pm. A quick guide for beginners. New Zealand has a proportional representation electoral system, which normally means the non-local observer need look no further than the national vote. However, mixed-member proportional brings the complication that minor parties must clear one of two hurdles to win seats proportional to their vote share: either they must win 5 per cent of the national vote, or win at least one constituency seat. The minor parties in play are:

  • The Green Party, who current polling suggests are sure to clear 5 per cent. Notwithstanding party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons’ win in Coromandel in 1999, they will probably need to.
  • New Zealand First, closely associated with its troubled leader Winston Peters and presumably in big trouble. Peters lost his constituency seat of Tuaranga in 2005, but his party scored 5.7 per cent of the national vote despite a 4.7 per cent swing. In spite of everything, Peters might have some hope of recovering Tauranga with the retirement of one-term National Party MP Bob Clarkson.
  • The Maori Party, believed likely to capture most of the seven dedicated Maori electorates (it currently has four), potentially causing a significant overhang (see below).
  • ACT New Zealand, the free-market party led by Rodney Hide, who retained his seat of Epsom in 2005 with 42.3 per cent of the vote against the National Party’s 33.7 per cent.
  • United Future New Zealand, led by Peter Dunne, who is very likely to be re-elected in his seat of Ohariu.
  • Progressive Party, led by veteran Jim Anderton who polled 46.6 per cent in his seat of Wigram in 2005.

In normal circumstances, the parliament will consist of 63 general electorates, seven Maori electorates and 50 list seats. However, these numbers can be increased in the event of an overhang, which occurs if a party wins more constituency seats than it would normally get from its share of the national vote. This is almost certain to be true of the Maori Party, which might win as many as seven seats despite having a national vote of between 2 and 3 per cent according to the polls. The Progressive Party constituency seat is also likely to be won from a negligible national vote that wouldn’t account for a seat. Taken together, that could lead to an overhang of between two and five seats, for a total of up to 125 seats rather than 120. As such, attention here will be focused on the national vote; Tauranga, Epsom, Ohariu and Wigram; and the Maori electorates.

6.10pm (NZ time). Welcome to my live coverage of the New Zealand election count. I’m getting in early here to advertise the fact that I’m doing this – polls in New Zealand do not in fact close until 7pm.

New Zealand election minus one day

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.

New Zealand election: November 8

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark today called an election for November 8, initiating what seems an astoundingly long eight-week campaign. Wikipedia scribes explain that while the latest possible date was November 15, the country’s elections are normally held in September. With Labour tanking in the polls throughout the year, Clark has presumably taken a Howard-style option of a late election and a long campaign in the hope her rival, National Party leader John Key, will stumble before polling day.

Failing that, Clark can hope that New Zealand’s mixed-member proportional electoral system allows her to cobble together some kind of majority with minor parties. Currently represented are populist New Zealand First (seven seats out of 121 at the 2005 election), who are presumably in trouble following Winston Peters’ recent travails; the Green Party (six seats), who normally hover around the deadly 5 per cent representation threshold but can be expected to do well if Labour is on the nose; the Maori Party, who hold four of the seven designated Maori seats and for all I know are expected to do as well this time; religious-cum-centrist United Future New Zealand (three seats), who will need leader Peter Dunne to hold his electorate seat of Ohariu to maintain representation; free-market liberal Act New Zealand (three seats), who likewise need leader Rodney Hide to retain Epsom; and the Progressive Party (one seat), whose future is presumably tied to that of sole parliamentary member Jim Anderton, 70-year-old member for the electorate of Wigram.

Labour won 50 seats in 2005 and retained government in coalition with the Progressive Party, backed by New Zealand First (Peters was made Foreign Minister, but stood down a fortnight ago pending a police investigation into alleged failure to disclose donations) and United Future. The Nationals won 48 seats, up from 27 in 2002.