Weekend miscellany: Morgan, Victorian Labor and latest New Zealand poll

Polls show a tight race in Australia and a rather less tight one in New Zealand; meanwhile, Victorian Labor’s factional players wonder what to do next.

Assorted developments from here and the near abroad:

• Roy Morgan has made one of its arbitrarily timed drops of its federal voting intention polling, which it conducts weekly but usually keeps to itself. This one has the Coalition with a 50.5-49.5 two-party lead, which based on the accompanying chart would appear to be its lowest point since the government’s coronavirus bounce. The primary votes are Coalition 42.5%, Labor 34.5%, Greens 10.5% and One Nation 4%. The poll was conducted online and by phone over the last two weekends from a sample of 2593.

Greg Brown of The Australian ($) reports the alliance in Victorian Labor between the Industrial Left and much of the Right is set to survive the demise of Adem Somyurek, who was generally credited with welding it together. This is due to a shared concern to prevent the Socialist Left gaining advantage from the present disarray, and the Industrial Left’s determination to secure the new federal seat shortly to be created in Victoria. However, the report quotes an unidentified Labor skeptic saying such manoeuvres are redundant since the national executive’s three-year takeover of the state branch means they are “not going to have a vote in anything”.

• In a review of Victorian Labor’s increasingly complicated factional terrain, Aaron Patrick of the Financial Review ($) notes party convention dictates that the national executive allocates seats to each faction after disruptive redistributions, to whom it then falls to fill them through internal ballots. However, a less messy option under the circumstances would simply be to guarantee the preselections of all sitting members. The most likely beneficiary would be Senator Kim Carr, who at 64 and after nearly three decades in the Senate would otherwise have to reckon with “a younger generation of left-wing faction operators who want to replace him”.

• With New Zealand’s election less than three months, I will henceforth be making note here of poll results from that country, which come by at a rate of one or two a month. The latest is from Colmar Brunton for 1 News, one of three poll series that reports with any regularity, together with Reid Research for Newshub and Roy Morgan for reasons of its own. After all three showed an astonishing blowout in favour of Jacinda Ardern’s Labour government last month, the latest result finds a substantial correction with Labour down nine to 50% and National down up by the same amount to 38%. Between the two polls, the National Party ditched its leader and Health Minister David Clark blotted the government’s coronavirus copybook by humiliating the country’s chief medical officer at a press conference. With minor parties needing to either clear a 5% national vote threshold or win a constituency seat to qualify for a share of seats proportionate to their vote, the poll finds the Greens up one to 6%, ACT New Zealand up a point to 3% and New Zealand First down one to 2%. ACT New Zealand should be safe thanks to party leader David Seymour’s hold on the seat of Epsom, but New Zealand First would rely on the long shot of one-time Labour MP Shane Jones poaching the seat of Northland, which party leader Winston Peters failed to carry in 2017.

Biden increases lead over Trump

Trump’s ratings fall back as the US is engulfed by protests over George Floyd’s murder. The UK Conservatives also slide. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

In the FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate, Donald Trump’s ratings with all polls are 42.7% approve, 53.6% disapprove (net -10.9%). With polls of registered or likely voters, Trump’s ratings are 42.7% approve, 53.8% disapprove (net -11.1%). Since my article three weeks ago, Trump has lost about three points on net approval. His disapproval rating is at its highest since the early stages of the Ukraine scandal last November.

In the RealClearPolitics average of national polls, Joe Biden’s lead over Trump has widened to 7.8%, up from 4.5% three weeks ago. That is Biden’s biggest lead since December 2019.

In the key states that will decide the Electoral College and hence the presidency, it is less clear. National and state polls by Change Research gave Biden a seven-point lead nationally, but just a three-point lead in Florida, a two-point lead in Michigan and a one-point lead in North Carolina. In Wisconsin, Trump and Biden were tied, while Trump led by one in Arizona and four in Pennsylvania.

This relatively rosy state polling picture for Trump is contradicted by three Fox News polls. In these polls, Biden leads by nine points in Wisconsin, four points in Arizona and two points in Ohio. Trump won Ohio by eight points in 2016, and it was not thought to be in play.

Ironically, Change Research is a Democrat-associated pollster, while Fox News is very pro-Trump. Fieldwork for all these state polls was collected since May 29, when the George Floyd protests began. A Texas poll from Quinnipiac University had Trump leading by just one point. Trump won Texas by nine points in 2016.

US daily coronavirus cases and deaths are down from their peak, and stock markets anticipate a strong economic recovery. But it is likely that a greater amount of economic activity will allow the virus to resurge. A strong recovery from coronavirus would assist Trump, but unemployment is a lagging indicator that recovers more slowly than the overall economy. The May US jobs report will be released Friday night in Australia.

Concerning the protests over the murder of George Floyd, in an Ipsos poll for Reuters conducted Monday and Tuesday, 64% said they sympathised with the protesters, while 27% did not. 55% disapproved of Trump’s handling of the protests, while just 33% approved. That’s well below Trump’s overall approval of 39% in that poll.

UK Conservatives slump after Dominic Cummings scandal

In late May, it was revealed that PM Boris Johnson’s advisor, Dominic Cummings, had breached quarantine rules during the coronavirus lockdown in March. However, Cummings did not resign and Johnson refused to sack him.

An Opinium poll for The Observer gave the Conservatives just a 43-39 lead over Labour, down from a 12-point lead the previous week. It is the lowest Conservative lead in that poll since Johnson became PM. Johnson’s net approval was down from +6 to -5. 68% thought Cummings should resign, and 66% thought Johnson should sack him if he did not resign.

However, a YouGov poll for The Times gave the Conservatives a ten-point lead, up from six points previously, implying that public anger may be short-lived. In general, the poll trend over the last two months has been towards Labour, as the UK’s coronavirus death toll has risen to be the second highest behind the US.

Another NZ poll has Labour in the high 50s

A Roy Morgan New Zealand poll gave Labour a 56.5% to 26.5% lead over National, concurring with two polls published in May. The poll was taken April 27 to May 24, so it does not account for the May 22 change in National leadership. New Zealand has just one active coronavirus case remaining, and has recorded no new cases since May 22. It increasingly appears they have succeeded in eliminating coronavirus.

New Zealand Labour surges into high 50s in polls

Four months before the September 19 election, Labour takes a huge lead over National owing to Jacinda Ardern’s coronavirus response.  Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

New Zealand has relatively few polls compared to other countries. Before this week, the last polls had been conducted in January to early February, well before the coronavirus crisis began. Those polls had the governing Labour party one to five points behind the opposition National.

What a difference the handling of the coronavirus crisis has made! In two polls conducted in early to mid-May, Labour had 56.5% in a Reid Research poll and 59% in a Colmar Brunton poll, while National was respectively at 30.6% and 29%. Since the previous iterations of these polls, Labour is up 18 points in Colmar Brunton and up 14 in Reid Research, while National is down 17 and down 13.

While other countries have struggled with coronavirus, New Zealand is close to eliminating it. The strict lockdown imposed on March 26 appears to have worked, with very few cases recorded since the end of April. There are currently 1,504 total cases, 21 deaths and 1,455 recoveries in New Zealand. Subtracting deaths and recoveries from total cases gives just 28 active cases. Australia has also been successful, but has 516 active cases on just over five times New Zealand’s population.

As a result of New Zealand’s success in handling coronavirus, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s net approval has rocketed to +76 from +33 in October 2019 in the Colmar Brunton poll.  86% approve and just 10% disapprove, figures comparable to Western Australian and Tasmanian Premiers Mark McGowan and Peter Gutwein in the recent premiers’ Newspoll.  Opposition Leader Simon Bridges slumped to a net -40 net approval from -22 last October.

Bridges is no longer the opposition leader. After these dire poll results, he was rolled in a party room spill on Friday, and replaced as National leader by Todd Muller. Numbers in the spill have not been released.

While Labour has a huge lead now, there are four months to go until the September 19 election. Elections are not decided by gratitude, as Winston Churchill can attest to after being thumped in the 1945 UK election. However, there are likely to be reminders from other countries regarding the dire effects of coronavirus. In addition, if the virus is indeed eliminated in New Zealand, the economy should start doing much better than the economies of coronavirus-hit countries.

Under New Zealand’s Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system, parties qualify for the proportional allocation of seats if they either win at least 5% of the overall vote, or win a single-member seat. Since 2017, Labour has governed with the support of the Greens and the populist NZ First. NZ First is below 5% in the polls and the Greens are at about 5%. It’s plausible that neither party re-enters parliament, and that almost all seats go to either Labour or National.

Of plagues and houses

Results finalised on Queensland’s two status quo state by-election results, and COVID-19 question marks over looming elections in New Zealand, the Northern Territory and for two Tasmanian upper house seats.

Counting has concluded for the Currumbin and Bundamba by-elections of a fortnight ago, with Laura Gerber retaining Currumbin for the Liberal National Party by a 1.5% margin against a 1.8% swing to Labor, and Lance McCallum retaining Bundamba for Labor by a 9.6% margin ahead of second-placed One Nation (UPDATE: Make that a 1.2% margin in Currumbin and 9.8% in Bundamba). As noted previously, the flow of Greens preferences to Labor in Currumbin was relatively weak, though not quite decisively so. Deep within the innards of the ECQ’s media feed, it says that Greens preferences were going 1738 to Labor (72.8%) and 651 (27.2%), though this can’t be based on the final figures since the Greens received 2527 rather than 2389 votes. Had Labor received 79.17% of Greens preferences, as they did in the corresponding federal seat of McPherson last May, the margin would have been pared back from 567 (1.5%) to 215 (0.5%).

I have three tables to illustrate the results in light of the highly unusual circumstances of the election, the first of which updates one that appeared in an early post, recording the extent to which voters in the two seats changed their behaviour with respect to how they voted. Election day voting obviously fell dramatically, as voters switched to pre-poll voting and, to only a slightly lesser extent, outright abstention. What was not seen was a dramatic increase in postal voting, which will require investigation given the considerable anecdotal evidence that many who applied for postal votes did not receive their ballots on time — an even more contentious matter in relation to the mess that unfolded in Wisconsin on Tuesday, on which I may have more to say at a later time.

The next two tables divide the votes into four types, polling places, early voting, postal and others, and record the parties’ vote shares and swings compared with 2017, the latter shown in italics. In both Currumbin and Bundamba, Labor achieved their weakest results in swing terms on polling day votes, suggesting Labor voters made the move from election day to pre-poll voting in particularly large numbers, cancelling out what had previously been an advantage to the LNP in pre-poll voting. This is matched by a particularly strong swing against the LNP on pre-polls in Currumbin, but the effect is not discernible in Bundamba, probably because the picture was confused by the party running third and a chunk of its vote being lost to One Nation, who did not contest last time.

In other COVID-19 disruption news:

• The Northern Territory government has rejected calls from what is now the territory’s official opposition, Terry Mills’ Territory Alliance party (UPDATE: Turns out I misheard here – the Country Liberal Party remains the opposition, as Bird of Paradox notes in comments), to postpone the August 22 election. Of the practicalities involved in holding the election under a regime of social distancing rules, which the government insists will be in place for at least six months, Deputy Chief Minister Nicole Manison offers only that “the Electoral Commission is looking at the very important questions of how we make sure that in the environment of COVID-19 that we do this safely”.

• After an initial postponement from May 2 to May 30, the Tasmanian government has further deferred the periodic elections for the Legislative Council seats of Huon and Rosevear, promising only that they will be held by the time the chamber sits on August 25. Three MLCs have written to the Premier requesting that the elections either be held by post or for the terms of the existing members, which will otherwise expire, to be extended through to revised polling date.

• The junior partner in New Zealand’s ruling coalition, Winston Peters of New Zealand First, is calling for the country’s September 19 election to be postponed to November 21, which has also elicited positive noises from the opposition National Party. It might well be thought an element of self-interest is at work here, with Peters wishing to put distance between the election and a donations scandal that has bedeviled his party, and National anticipating a short-term surge in government support amid the coronavirus crisis. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern may be softening in her opposition to the notion, saying earlier this week it would “depend on what alert level we are at”. There has regrettably been no polling of voting intention in New Zealand in two months, although the government recorded enormously encouraging results in a Colmar Brunton poll on handling of the pandemic in New Zealand and eight other countries, conducted last week.

New Zealand election

An electoral overview of today’s New Zealand election, which would appear to be a highly competitive race between a three-term conservative government and a resurgent Labour Party.

New Zealand goes to the polls today to decide whether to grant a fourth term to the conservative National Party, which won elections under the leadership of John Key in 2008, 2011 and 2014. The party fell just short of winning parliamentary majorities in its own right in 2011 and 2014, through which time it has had confidence and supply agreements with three very small parties: the Maori Party, which has had two seats since the 2014 election, and ACT New Zealand and United Future, who have had one apiece. With Key’s resignation at the end of last year, the prime ministership passed to Bill English, who had an earlier stint as party leader in opposition from 2001 and 2003, leading the party to defeat as Helen Clark’s Labour government was elected to its second term in 2002. Both Clark’s government and the National administration that preceded it lasted three three-year terms, so the country will be following its usual pattern if Labour is elected today.

Since 1996, New Zealand’s elections have been held under the mixed-member proportional electoral system, a model developed in Germany, which is helpfully holding its own national election this weekend (see the post immediately below this one). New Zealand’s reform was apparently the only example known to history of a country replacing a single-member majoritarian system with a proportional representation system, or vice-versa. Under MMP, voters elect both a local constituency member and cast a second vote to determine the party’s overall seat shares. To the extent that the outcomes for the 71 constituency seats don’t do the job, 49 “list” members are elected from the parties’ tickets to produce an overall seat total in proportion to the party vote result. Where a party wins more constituency seats than its share of the party vote would entitle it to, the result is an “overhang” in which the total number of seats exceeds the minimum of 120. There have typically been overhangs of one or two seats owing to constituency seats being won by minor parties with fractional shares of the national party vote.

Complicating the picture somewhat is a 5% threshold that a party with no constituency seats must clear to be eligible for its share of party list seats. This means that a party’s share of seats reflects not its share of the overall number of votes cast, but its share of votes cast for those parties who were eligible for representation. In 2011, 3.4% of votes were cast for parties that failed to make the cut; in 2014, it was 6.2%. This meant the National Party’s respective vote shares of 47.3% and 47.0% were very nearly in enough to get them over the line to parliamentary majorities in their own right, resulting in 59 seats out of 121 on the first occasion and 60 seats on the second. The share of the vote excluded from the calculation could increase quite markedly if the Green Party fails to clear the 5% threshold, as some polls have suggested they may. The party has had a tough year, with one of its two co-leaders resigning over personal scandals that also prompted two of her colleagues to resign from the parliamentary party.

The other notable complication is that the constituency seats are divided into 64 general and seven Maori electorates, with voters identifying as one or the other for purposes of electoral enrolment. The success of the Maori Party in these seats was fertile ground for overhangs at its peak around a decade ago, when it won four of the seven Maori seats in 2005 and five in 2008. However, its fortunes declined following a party split in 2011, and it only won one of the seven seats in 2014, the other six going to Labour in one of the few bright spots for the party amid an otherwise poor result.

The following is a crude poll trend measure based on the public polling results from the past term aggregated at Wikipedia (National in blue, Labour in red, Green in green, New Zealand First in tan):

What is abundantly clear is that Labour has undergone a dramatic surge since Jacinda Ardern replaced Andrew Little as leader on August 1. Beyond that, however, the campaign polls have been all over the shop so far as the relative standing of National and Labour is concerned. One poll series, Newshub-Reid Research, has persisted in recording commanding leads for National, most recently of 45.8% to 37.3%. This has been corroborated by the most recent One News-Colmar Brunton poll, which has it at 46% to 37%. Most polls conducted from the end of August through the first fortnight of September had Labour ahead, but the overall impression is that National’s position has since improved. My own gut feeling, based on Ardern’s media buzz and the normal behaviour of the electoral cycle, is that this is flattering National, but I can’t pretend this is based on a particularly deep understanding of the New Zealand political scene.

It’s certainly clear that whoever governs will require the support of minor parties, and here too the picture is hard to read. The Green Party won 10.7% of the vote and 14 seats in 2014, which it surely will not match this time. A lot may depend on whether it clears the 5% threshold, in which case it will win a minimum of six seats. If it doesn’t, those six seats will instead go to other parties, with no more than two or three going to Labour. The other big minor party is Winston Peters’ New Zealand First, which scored 8.7% and 11 seats in 2014, which Peters managed to increase to 12 when he successfully contested a National-held seat at a by-election in 2015. The party had a poll surge in July and August but has since suffered from the surge to Labour, with recent indications being that the party stands to go backwards.

The other three minor parties with parliamentary representation, who each provide National with parliamentary support, each owe their presence to success in constituency seats. That appears unlikely to continue in the case of United Future, has has held on precariously at the last few elections owing to party leader Peter Dunne’s narrow victories in his outer Wellington seat of Ōhāriu. He is now bowing out, partly in recognition of the fact that he was unlikely to retain the seat. It’s a different story for ACT New Zealand, whose member David Seymour has a lock on the Auckland electorate of Epsom with the tacit acceptance of the National Party. The Maori Party won only a single constituency seat in 2014, but its 1.3% party vote was enough to entitle it to a second seat. To repeat that performance, Te Ururoa Flavell will have to retain his seat of Waiariki – the one local poll suggests he will.

For what it’s worth, my best guess it that the Green Party will stay in the game; that Labour will outperform the late polls, though perhaps not by enough to make it to power with the Green Party alone; and that New Zealand First will emerge as the kingmaker. Should the National Party remain in government, it will require the support of the mercurial Peters and his party, a situation it has been very happy to have avoided throughout its time in office.

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.