New Zealand general election 2014

This Saturday is the general election in New Zealand. There seems to be little doubt that National Party Prime Minister John Key will remain in office. However, there is considerable question about what the shape of the post-electoral deals will look like. A New Zealand Herald article goes over the possibilities (some of which may be remote).

The current government was formed from agreements signed by Key following the 2011 election with the Act, United Future, and Maori parties. The latter party is likely to be much diminished, and there has been considerable speculation that Key may need to turn to the New Zealand First Party to make a deal.

ElectionSign2014_04flr
Photo credit: Errol Cavit, in Maungakiekie electorate. Used by permission. I am not there this year, so I rely on Errol for my election-sign photos. But you can still see my collection from 2011!

In fact, NZF leader Winston Peters has suggested in recent days that “the media seem to have overlooked one option entirely, a Labour-New Zealand First combination on coalition or confidence and supply.” Anyone who has followed New Zealand politics since about 1996 knows that Peters likes to make himself indispensable, but not pre-committed, to either side. So here he goes again. In the same statement, Peters said voters should be “disabused of the notion” that NZF would allow the Green Party to “promote extremist policies” in a Labour-led government. This statement, too, has echoes of the past. In 2005 his bargaining position was strong enough to prevent Green entry into the cabinet, despite Greens and Labour having campaigned as each other’s preferred partners.*

Among the things to watch in this election (in addition to Internet Mana, discussed here previously) is whether the Conservative Party makes it in. Key had earlier announced that the National Party would not give a free ride to the Conservative leader, Colin Craig, in his electorate as it is doing in Epsom (for Act) and Ohariu (for United Future). Craig will have to make it on his own, by having his party clear 5%.** In late July a New Zealand Herald editorial suggested:

This will be a good election for small parties. Whenever one of the main parties is polling as low as Labour has been this time, some of its supporters give their votes to other parties in the hope of having more influence on the government. Winston Peters will be trying to harvest those dislocated Labour votes and he has complained that the Conservatives are copying his positions on many issues.

It also notes that Key may have calculated, “probably correctly”, that to make a pre-election commitment to help Craig and his (socially) Conservative Party would cost National more votes from the public than his seats would be worth. But if he makes it in anyway, there’s another force on the right to bargain with. This analysis may prove correct, and as the earlier-linked item on government possibilities noted, Craig would not demand a lot for support.

There is much more to be said about the likely performance of various parties in this election, and what the post-election bargaining might look like. So I will step aside for now and let readers say it…

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* The linked news item does contain an error in its recounting of the 2005 precedent, however. It says, “In 2005, Helen Clark led a minority government with the support of NZ First, United Future, and the Greens on confidence and supply.” Actually, Greens did not sign a confidence and supply agreement following the 2005 election, settling for a much weaker “cooperation agreement”.

** In New Zealand’s MMP system, a party needs 5% of the party-list vote or one district (electorate) win. If it attains an electorate, it qualifies for more seats from its list if its list vote would be sufficient for 2 or more seats (thereby waiving the 5% threshold).

17 thoughts on “New Zealand general election 2014

  1. I’d note also that given the high level of negative media attention directed at the ruling National Party is responsible for pushing the Conservatives as close to the 5% threshold as they are, and there may be potential for their turnout to decrease slightly relative to previous elections. Definitely something to watch.

  2. We should all pay close attention to the 5% threshold issue. The original Royal Commission which recommended MMP and designed the system recommended a 4% threshold. The government changed that to 5% when implementing MMP. The recent review of the system, after extensive consultation, again recommended 4%. Again the government declined to follow that. If one or two parties just miss 5%, there should be an uproar. Also, the one-local-MP loophole has become a scandal, so the review recommended it be abolished. If a party gets even less than the unrepresented parties, but has been allowed to win a local seat by its intended coalition partner major party, the scandal is transparent.

    • In the MMP Review, the Electoral Commission actually indicated that 3% would be good, but not politically practical. They therefore settled on 4%, which as WIlf notes, was the original Royal Commission recommendation as well.

      I believe Labour and Greens are both committed to 4%, and New Zealand First should prefer 4% given that they once got shut out despite more than 4% (while Act got several MPs on much lower party vote). In the (unlikely, in this election) event that these parties came to power, I think you’d see a bill to implement this and other recommendations of the MMP Review.

      • It would be good if all (or at least some of those that don’t benefit Labour in the short term) are included in any such bill. And if additional ‘features’ like State-only funding of parties don’t appear.

    • Why is the one – local – seat rule such a scandal? Wouldn’t the results be even more disproportionate if Maori and ACT had overhangs rather than being awarded their proportional 2 and one seats of the 120?

      • Firstly, scandal is a strong term, most people wouldn’t label this aspect of the NZ implementation of MMP as such. Secondly, it is an issue because the general public don’t consider strict proportionality for larger parties as important as presence (or not) of smaller parties due to an apparently arbitrary limit. The Maori Party (with one electorate MP) has gained a List seat with 1.29% of party vote. But Internet-MANA with 1.26% and Conservatives with 4.12% get no MPs.

  3. Election Night results give National 61 of 121 seats, with no relevant electorate candidates subject to change on Special Votes. Internet-Mana misses out, as their sitting MP lost his seat. Conservatives miss out, on 4.1%. Maori get an Electorate MP and one ‘coat tail’.
    There is a good chance that Greens will slightly improve their poor showing on Special Votes. Even if National can govern alone after specials, expect them to make arrangements with UF, ACT, and Maori Party.

    • My website’s New Zealand page has preliminary nationwide vote totals for both the party and electorate votes, the latter aggregated from electorate-level figures published on the Elections New Zealand results website.

      Incidentally, of 30,363 votes polled by Internet and Mana electorate candidates – as it has been pointed out here before, the two parties ran separately in the electorates (although never against each other) – 26,521 were for eighteen Mana candidates, and the remaining 3,842 votes for the fifteen Internet Party candidates, including 1,057 for party leader Laila Harré in Hellensville (where her poor fourth-place finish with 3.6% of the vote was by far the party’s best showing).

    • Yes, but 59/121 becoming 61/121 is a small change with significant impact, even if it ends up as 60/121 – you need only one other party to vote with you on any given issue, rather than two. And a Government gaining vote share going into their 3rd term is remarkable.

  4. Probably not, but what would the election result had been rerun with the 4% threshold? The Conservative Party would had gotten 4 to 5 seats, would they have taken seats away from National? Maybe the Conservatives will do better next time. It is interesting that John Key did not want to give them a seat. This was a wise decision for this election, but perhaps not in the future.

    This Election is interesting in the sense that this is the best result for the National Party since 1990 in terms of votes, and compared to most Western countries, this is a landslide and National comes the closest towards a majority of the vote. This is very rare for most Western countries as the party systems seem to be fragmenting and in NZ, it is consolidating.

    • On lowering the party-vote threshold, I would say no change in the probability. National is not about to hand the Conservatives that prize, given that had the threshold been 4% in this election, National would not have a majority. And I assume Labour and Greens will not change their preference for implementing the Electoral Commission recommendations should they come to power in 2017.

    • Based on the results as of right now, had the threshold been 4%, but no change made to the overhang provision, and the votes received were the same, the Conservatives would have won 5 seats, and Maori, NZ First, Greens, National, and Labour would have each lost a seat. ACT would have just earned 1/120 of seats, so there would still be an overhang of one seat (United Future), and the 121 seats would have been: Nats 60, Lab 31, Green 12, NZF 10, Cons 5, and 1 each to Maori, ACT, and United Future.

  5. Another example of a party winning an absolute majority under a PR system… Same week as Alex Salmond and the SNP in the news… yawn… Is anyone in the flog-Mandela wing of the UK Tory Right planning at any point to acknowledge that Duverger’s “law” has massive holes in it? or are they too busy fighting their Lib Dem coalition partners in Cabinet?

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