New Zealand 2014 election result

Preliminary results from the 20 September general election show the National Party has won 61 seats out of 121. Thus, by one seat, it has a majority in its own. Despite having a majority, it is likely to continue to govern with confidence-and-supply agreements with the same partners it has had for its previous two terms: ACT, United Future, and Maori Party. National will want to retain good working relationships with other parties, given that a majority is not likely to be a common occurrence under Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP); indeed, it is the first majority since the system was put in place in 1996. Moreover, with just one seat over the 50% mark, trying to govern alone could be precarious.*




final results

    show the National Party has just 60 out of 121 seats, or 49.59% of seats on 47.04% of the party-list vote. The Green Party picked up a seat in exchange. No electorates changed hands, although wherever I mention specific vote totals or differentials, they could be slightly different in the final count. I will leave the rest of this post unchanged.]

It must be noted that this majority is manufactured by the electoral system. That might seem like something that “should not” happen under MMP with nationwide proportionality. But two points. First, National is very close to 50%, currently on 48.06%. Partly the reason “fully” PR systems rarely manufacture majorities is that such high vote shares are fairly unusual. Second, New Zealand’s proportionality is limited by the 5% threshold, and with one party, the Conservatives, having obtained 4.12%, there are some wasted votes. Just excluding this party’s votes, National has 49.93% of the remainder. At this moment, I suspect Prime Minister John Key and his party are very pleased with themselves for not having adopted the Electoral Commission’s recommendation to reduce the threshold to 4%. With a lowered threshold, the Conservatives likely would have won five seats (perhaps more, as they might have picked up more support had it been apparent that a vote for them was not wasted), and National would have had 2-3 fewer.

One of the other notable features of the outcome is that the Maori Party won a list seat for the first time. It was a bad result for them overall, as they won only one electorate (district) seat. In the past, the party had won 4 (2005), 5 (2008), and 3 (2011) seats, all of them electorates. This time, they easily retained the one but were not close in any other. Their 1.29% of the list vote was just enough to qualify for a second seat under the alternative threshold (what New Zealanders call coat-tailing, although I would prefer a different term).

It was a quite bad result for Labour (24.7%, 32 seats) and a disappointing one for the Greens (10%, 13 seats, a loss of one from their current high at the 2011 election). It was a very good result for New Zealand First, with 8.9% and 11 MPs.

The Internet MANA alliance failed to win a seat, probably because the anticipated backlash did indeed occur. Voters in the one supposedly safe MANA electorate heavily voted strategically to keep the MANA leader out, thereby also obviating any chance that Kim Dotcom’s lavish spending would put some Internet Party MPs in office due to the alliance. (And to think, some folks still insist that MMP is too complex for voters to figure out; this case seems to suggest such a view is quite wrong!)

A glance at MANA leader Hone Harawira’s electorate of Te Tai Tokerau, one of the Maori special seats, makes the strategic voting quite apparent. The winner was Labour candidate Kelvin Davis, who received almost two thousand more votes than the Labour list received from the electorate’s voters. Normally, I might just attribute that to the Green list voters, who numbered 1,821. However, many Green voters might actually have wanted Harawira to make it in, because Internet MANA was another potential block of left-leaning votes in parliament. New Zealand First (2,805 list votes) and National (1,659)–neither of which contests Maori electorates–certainly will want to claim credit for defeating Harawira (and Dotcom). We will have a better idea when the Electoral Commission releases its split-voting analysis. (Also of note: The Green Party contested four of the seven Maori electorates; this was one of those in which they did not enter a candidate.)

In a comment at an earlier post, Manuel offers an interesting further observation on Internet MANA:

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).

Harawira seems to have made a pretty serious miscalculation in forging his alliance with Dotcom.

I will now offer a few semi-random observations on specific electorates and smaller parties.

Thanks to Manuel’s page at Election Resources, we can readily check the list votes alongside the aggregated electorate (nominal) votes. National’s candidates collectively ran a little behind their party (46.8% vs. 48.1%), although that is a minor difference. Labour’s candidates ran far ahead, with 34% vs. just under 25% for the list. However, this is not because of great candidates–except maybe Stuart Nash, a former MP not running on the list, who won back the Napier seat. Labour’s nominal vote is so high because Green voters often give their electorate vote to the local Labour candidate. So do many New Zealand First voters. For these two parties, there was, as there usually is, substantial attrition off their list vote (from 10% to 6.6% for Greens and from 8.9% to 3.2% for NZF).

A seat I was following was West Coast-Tasman. This has been a close race between National and Labour before. In this election, Labour incumbent MP Damien O’Connor won it again. His votes were more than double his party’s list votes in the electorate, and still almost 3,000 more than the sum of Labour and NZF list votes, plus the number of Green votes remaining after their own candidate’s votes are subtracted. (NZF did not run a candidate.) By contrast, the National candidate, Maureen Pugh, ran more than 3,000 votes behind her party. It seems like a pretty clear case of split-ticket voting for the Labour incumbent; in other words, a personal vote rather than a strategic one, as O’Connor must have picked up a chunk of National list voters.

Why might O’Connor have such a personal vote? There could be many reasons, but one might be his vote for a bill that his party opposed, regarding relaxing logging restrictions following a major storm that downed many trees in this heavily forested district. (I can’t find that link now; sorry.)

This district was also where I saw a sign in the 2011 campaign warning against the pesticide “1080”.


This was an issue that United Future took up in that election (I saw signs for UF that said “ban 1080” on the South Island) in its (failed) quest for sufficient party-list votes to get a seat other than the safe electorate of its leader, Peter Dunne. In this year’s election there was actually a party registered under the name Ban 1080, and one of its candidates, Pete Salter (Businessman; Possum hunter), actually managed to come in third in the electorate vote in West Coast-Tasman. With 2,141 votes, he outpolled the Green candidate, Kevin Hague (2,024, which was about half what the Green Party list vote was). But the Ban 1080 list won only 855 votes in the electorate. It is an interesting protest vote in that so many voters were willing to cast their electorate vote for a candidate with no chance, but not their more precious party vote. (Again, it seems many voters really do understand the relative importance of the two votes.)

Coromandel is another rural district I like to watch. This is the one place where the Greens have ever won an electorate seat (in 1999, when their passing the threshold was in doubt). It continues to be a place where the Green candidate outpolls the party’s list–something that has happened in each election since 1999, despite their not having come close to winning the seat again. Aside from 1999, when Labour “lent” electorate votes to the Greens, it has been a safe National seat. This district is also where the Ban 1080 leader, Mike Downard, ran. He, too, outpolled the Ban 1080 list, but, with just 373 votes, not nearly as impressively as Salter in West Coast-Tasman. (Downard is a former deputy mayor of Tapuo, which is not anywhere near Coromandel.)

A few other Green candidates outpolled their list in the electorate contest, defying the usual trend of strategic voting for the local Labour candidate. For instance, in Tamaki, a safe National seat, Dorthe Sigaard received about 500 more votes than the party. Her list position (#55) was far too low to have a chance of winning. It is an interesting case of a “hopeless” candidate nonetheless having a “personal vote” (if we assume that any case of a candidate outpolling her party, but not being one of the top competitive candidates in the district, is evidence of a personal, rather than strategic, vote). The Green candidate in Tamaki Makaurau, a Maori district, also ran ahead of the list. Maybe it’s just a Tamaki thing.

However, neither co-leader Russel Norman in Rongotai nor the other co-leader, Metiria Turei, in Dunedin North, outpolled the party. Rongotai voters had some options: a candidate for the Climate Party got 53 votes and the Patriotic Revolutionary Front candidate got 48; the revolution has to start somewhere. (Options for those Rongotai voters who think Norman has sold out the Greens?)**

The Green candidate in Northland, David Clendon, did not outpoll the party. But he saw a much lower attrition from the party list than most of his listmates (from 3,244 to 3,094). Maybe that campaign event regarding Northland roads paid off.

The electorate of Epsom is always interesting. This is the one seat ACT won, with their candidate David Seymour coasting with 13,921 votes to National’s 9,398. On the list, ACT had a mere 881, but National had 19,961. Of course, even though National runs a candidate here, it essentially “lends” electorate votes to ACT to get the combined right an additional seat (and potentially more, although ACT’s nationwide list votes were again insufficient for a second seat).

The photo below by Errol shows the National strategy in Epsom well. The sign for the party shows only PM Key, not their candidate in the electorate, and has a prominent banner saying “your party vote is crucial”. By contrast, the sign right next to it, for ACT, shows the party name quite small but prominently says “David Seymour Epsom”, all in the same size type.


I also like the New Zealand First sign, at the left, which is policy-focused: “GST off; It’s common sense”. The Greens’ sign is quite different from all their signs that I recall from 2011: it does not make a policy statement, it just shows the co-leaders looking very official outside the Parliament building, and reminds voters to give them the party vote.

East Coast Bays is another one with unusual vote patterns, because it is where Conservative leader Colin Craig ran. He finished second with 4,556 votes, but far behind National’s Murray McCully. He had more than 2,500 votes more than his party’s list, while McCully’s 17,907 was 659 votes behind his party’s list. It would appear that some National voters were trying to help him the same way their counterparts help ACT in Epsom, even though there was no such deal announced here. This district also saw the Green slightly ahead of the party vote; and our friends at Ban 1080 pulled off the same (a not-so-impressive 203 candidate votes but only 41 for the list!).

The Conservative candidate in Napier also did well, despite finishing third. In fact, he won more votes (7,135) than Craig did in East Coast Bays and more than the party list (2,113), despite this being a relatively competitive electorate between Labour and National (decided for National by 3,733 votes, with about half that margin being the amount of attrition from the Green list to their candidate). Chalk up a “personal vote” to Garth McVicar, the Conservative candidate and former head of the Sensible Sentencing Trust.

Congratulations if you made it this far, thereby showing you are at least as fascinating by split-voting in New Zealand’s MMP system as I am!

* As of this writing, it is still possible that final results could result in National having 60 of 121. However, a contact in New Zealand tells me that this now looks less likely than it did on election night.

** The Climate Party ran one other candidate, in Auckland Central. The PRF had no other. Neither party registered a list.

63 thoughts on “New Zealand 2014 election result

  1. Key has announced a flag referendum for 2015.

    Australia and New Zealand have almost identical flags, blue background, Union Jack in the top left, southern cross in the right half. Canada had a similar flag before 1963. The New Zealand flag is actually 30 years older than the Australian flag, although most Australians are unaware of this.

    Naturally any reasonable person would welcome New Zealand adopting a new flag. Except, it destroys the best argument for Australia to adopt a new flag…

  2. From what I know of NZ Labour, is it fair to assume the Conservatives would have mainly voted with Key’s government had they cracked the threshold and won seats?

    • Definitely, Cons economically and socially conservative. Labour centre-left economics, leading the way on issues like gay rights.

      • That being said, from the preliminary results National could still have put together enough votes to form government with existing support partners, and the Conservatives’ views are so outside the New Zealand mean that National would be unlikely to concede much if anything to them or risk damage to their own vote next time.

      • While the Conservatives are far from the mainstream of New Zealand politics, Helen Clark’s interactions with the Greens after 1999 and 2005 show how an unpopular (at that point) party can be kept at arm’s length in government. While Craig may not get a ministry, his intense loathing of the Greens may be enough to keep him in the National party tent.

    • Isn’t the Cons a Christian Democratic Party? The name seems a bit odd, surprising that they don’t name themselves Christian Democrats. NZ when it first introduced MMP had the Christian Coalition coming close. Is there a place for it in NZ? NZ is a very moderate country, and there is perhaps a place for the Cons in the NZ parliament, but perhaps not being part of government nor let alone supporting it. The Cons could very well win seats in 2017 and be a testimonial party a la the SGP and to a lesser extent the ChristianUnion in the Netherlands. Why would anyone would want to vote for a party that would have no influence on government policy?

      • I think it will be a while before a NZ political party uses ‘Christian’ in its title: From Wikipedia
        Christian Heritage Party of New Zealand: “On 3 October 2006, the Party said it would disband to allow “new things to arise in Christian politics in New Zealand”. This came after a highly publicised scandal which resulted in its leader, Graham Capill, going to jail for committing sex-crimes.”

      • I’m not sure. There is quite a long history of Christian parties in New Zealand politics. United Future is a merger of Peter Dunne’s United Party and the Christian-based Future New Zealand Party. This boosted Dunne significantly in the 2002 election, but the most fundamentalist members were removed by him.
        Quite a few Christian Democratic parties tend to be socially conservative, but more economically liberal. The Conservatives are both economically and socially conservative, so it is doubtful whether they could be considered a formal Christian party.
        As regards a ‘testinomial party’, they would be highly unlikely not to throw the Nationals some sort of lifeline if a Labour-Green-New Zealand First coalition looked likely. Craig is an ideal partner for Key, in that unlike Winston Peters, he will not go near a deal with Labour and the Greens.

  3. Yes, a very interesting result. One of the less proportional MMP elections NZ has had, and National’s manufactured majority can definitely be attributed to it; if all parties were counted in list allocation the Conservatives would take 2 seats from National and Labour each, one from the Greens, and Internet-Mana would take two seats further from National (I ran a Sainte-Laguë calculation for the provisional count on Sunday, so have been tinkering). Additionally, your contact is right; It looks likely that the Greens would take a list seat off Labour if they gain another on the special votes. The lowest National quotient is too much higher than the Greens’ for that to be likely.

    Interestingly the Gallagher Lsq score of the provisional count is close to, but still not quite as high as 2008 when NZ1st missed out on the 5% threshold. Perhaps due to a smaller number of parties this year?

    Regarding the Greens billboard pictured above, those were actually filler billboards, due to a discrepancy in dates that local authorities allow hoardings to be erected (Auckland allows them a few days earlier than most places) so those were a special run to make sure that Auckland could ‘occupy positions’ before the main ones came out. Fun fact.

    • So the Green one was a filler that was still there the Thursday evening before the Saturday election. Which probably says something about the Green’s resource allocation.

      • Interesting that the Greens ran Julie Anne Genter in Epsom this time. I think she ran in Mt Roskill last time (or one of the other Auckland districts). On the one had, it does not matter where they run given that they win only list seats. On the other hand, the party makes strategic choices, presumably with a goal to increasing list votes (via “contamination“). I wonder why Epsom? Genter is one of their rising starts (she was bumped up from #13 last time to #8 this time, and is their transport spokeswoman). I suppose it could be a boring reason–maybe she moved her residence there. I hope it’s more interesting than that!

      • It happens with SMDs too… Scott Brown, Rob Hulls, and of course the original Winston Churchill.

  4. United Future had a very, very bad night. Just 0.22% of the party vote (half of what the Legalise Cannabis party got, and only just above Ban1080). He also becomes the first non-Maori electorate MP to become an overhang (Jim Anderton came close in 2008, when his Progressive Party only got 0.9% of the party vote). Dunne had his majority cut significantly as well. It doesn’t look like he’ll be back for another round in 2017.

      • You never can tell with Dunne. He’s so well-known and good at “showing face” around the electorate that he might just hang in there. Goodness only knows what supernatural deals he has to make in order to keep it though…

      • Oh, the United Future election night event was one of the most depressing events I’ve ever seen. It was mostly attended by journalists, and the TVNZ journalist who was there was openly mocking Dunne. If he wants any chance of re-election in 2017, he has to be part of government. Interestingly, it wasn’t the worst result for a party with a sitting MP. Ex-New Zealand First MP Brendan Horan formed his own New Zealand Independent Coalition, which came second last, with only 895 votes (behind the Civilian Party, who had promised ‘a free llama for every poverty stricken child’, and had a pineapple for deputy leader). Admittedly, Horan had been accused of stealing money from his dying mother’s bank account and using it to pay for gambling, so it’s not really a fair comparison between him and Dunne.

  5. This election simulator ( shows what the results would have been like under the systems proposed at the 2011 referendum. First-past-the-post gives National 102 seats and Labour 18. The other system which was popular, Supplementary Member (also known as Parallel Voting or Mixed-Member Majoritarian) gave National 93, Labour 20, Green and NZ First 3 each, and Conservative 1.
    Preferential Voting (Single Transferable Vote in single-member electorates) gave National 91 and Labour 29, while STV with Australian style group voting tickets (ugh) gives National 69, Labour 42, and 3 each for Green, NZ First, and Maori.

  6. Dylan Matthews, “3 reasons why New Zealand has the best-designed government in the world,” Vox (23 September 2014)
    He identifies (a) MMP, (b) unicameralism and (c) monarchy. I have a vague suspicion he’s not a [R]epublican.

    • At least the monarchy bit is a small aspect of the argument.
      “New Zealand would already top the list of best political systems even if it were a republic. But its constitutional monarchy only strengthens the case.”
      Thanks for the link.

    • I also came by this article, a few days ago. His commentary on bicameralism is a particularly uninsightful rant, while some of his other arguments are also rather misplaced, such as the contention that MMP somehow avoids coalition forming and kingmaker parties, or that STV ‘cannot assure’ proportionality. But what he most leaves to be desired is a discussion of parliamentarism (which, as a sidenote, rather undermines most of his arguments for the monarchy…). But it is, of course, a good thing to see some attention being paid to comparative politics.

  7. Like many Americans he is a bit mixed up about how things work outside the Lower 48. (No offen[s]e, MSS and others, but that’s true). I mean, he likes monarchy primarily because monarchs call early elections when the PrM is defeated in parliament… even though NZ almost never has early elections, while, say, Ireland has them frequently. I think the appeal of Middle Earth makes monarchy more attractive in the minds of many republics’ citizens: they think they’ll get Viggo Mortensen instead of Edward VIII.
    (It is an interesting fact, at least to me, that of Britain’s monarchs over the past two centuries, the three widely agreed to have been the best – the two Queens, and Elizabeth’s father, George VI – did not grow up knowing they were going to inherit the throne. Victoria and Elizabeth II could have been bumped down the list at any time while their respective fathers were alive, even at an advanced age. If (say) the Queen died, the King remarried someone young enough to have more children, and a younger baby brother arrived, Victoria and Elizabeth would have shared the fate of Victoria’s daughter. And George VI spent most of his adult life assuming his older brother would reign.
    So whatever the arguments in favour of monarchy, Britain doesn’t provide much empirical support for the often-raised claim that it enables the head of state to be trained for the job from a young age.

    • Australia’s one republican government is the ACT. Premiers are appointed by a majority vote of the local Parliament.If a no-confidence vote passes (I think it has to propose an alternative premier) that new candidate becomes Premier. There are fixed terms. This actually works quite nicely. In a PR parliament, it makes the business of government formation much easier. For instance, at the last election, the Liberals and Labor won 8 each, and there was 1 Green. Unlike in Tasmania in 2010, where there was a lengthy process of negotiations before a Labor-Green coalition could be formed, the single Green just voted for a Labor government. Monarchies are a source of silly and archaic rules when it comes to forming governments, as are some other parliamentary republics.

    • Tom, given that I have devoted my careers as a teacher, researcher, and blogger to dispelling notions that Americans have the World’s best or even its ONLY democracy worthy of emulation, how could I be offended by a statement such as yours (opening the 25/04/2014, 10:14 PM comment)?

      I will declare a (small) victory simply because an article in a popular website noted that there exist other models of democracy, and that we might learn from them. I wish he had not made a few errors of emphasis or interpretation (as noted by others), but in the wider context, they are minor.

      • “I have devoted my careers as a teacher, researcher, and blogger to dispelling notions that Americans have the World’s best or even its ONLY democracy worthy of emulation . . .” Indeed a praiseworthy career, but I must note that some of us reformers deny that any winner-take-all voting system should be considered democratic at all.

      • Wilf’s comment conjures up memories of Weber’s important essays, “Science as a Vocation” and “Politics as a Vocation”. While one vocation can and should inform the other, it is critical to recognize their distinctive purposes and values.

  8. One thing I neglected to note in the original post who was the list MP elected by the Maori Party. She is Marama Fox.

    She was the candidate in the Mari electorate of Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, where she finished a rather distant third, with 18% of the vote. (Labor won the seat with almost twice the votes of the runner-up, from the MANA Party.) Fox did outpoll the party’s list vote, which I believe has been a consistent feature of Maori Party candidates, given that till now the party has depended only on electorates, not the party list, to win seats.

    Here are the party’s candidates’ orders of finish and vote percentage, by Maori electorate:

      Hauraki-Waikato, second, 15.5%
      Ikaroa-Rāwhiti, third, 18.0%
      Tāmaki Makaurau, second, 31.6%
      Te Tai Hauāuru, second, 33.5%
      Te Tai Tokerau, third, 11.9%
      Te Tai Tonga, second, 24.7%
      Waiariki, first, 45.1%

    As I noted above, the party did not come very close to winning any of the seats where it came second. All in all, a pretty dismal performance.

    • A mother of nine kids?
      Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just that the Greens here in Australia are regularly accused of planning to cull the human herd under the guise of population control. Before the Greens, it was the Australian Democrats under John Coulter who were big on a two-child policy enforced by some mixture or carrot and/or stick.

      • Ach, the perils of speed-reading. Well, that does sound more ideologically consistent. If nothing else, it keeps up the number of Maori districts. (Are these based on the Maori proportion of enrolled voters only, or of the total population?)

  9. National is signing deals with partners. Act MP David Seymour (with no prior Parliamentary experience) is Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Minister of Education and Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Minister of Regulatory Reform. This is seen as a sensible step, rather than immediately getting a Ministerial portfolio
    United Future continues

  10. A wise idea, especially under a PR system. Malcolm Fraser’s Liberal party won absolute majorities under IRO-AV in the Australian elections of 1975 and 1977, but (despite some speculation at the time that Fraser might ditch the National/ Country Party and govern alone) the Liberals retained the Coalition and Doug Anthony remained as Deputy PrM.
    In both cases the Liberals’ majority was relatively slim by IRO-AV standards (68 seats out of 127 in 1975 and 67 seats out of 124 in 1977, ie 53.5% and 54% respectively), although of course the Nationals/ Country Party won another 23 and 19 seats so Labor was reduced to 36 and 38. The Coalition as a whole had a landslide majority, but the Liberals would have been risking it trying to govern alone, especially as Fraser soon began to annoy his conservative supporters by picking up on some of Whitlam’s reforms.

    • I predicted that National would win 60 seats and be 1 seat short of a majority. It is good that John Key expanded his coalition. John Key needed Peter Dunne’s overhang to give him a more comfortable majority. The News Media spoke too soon that National won a majority. It always seems that the Greens take 1 seat away from National. It seems that they always do that. The last Green on the 14th place on the List must be happy that they are going to Parliament, and the last National (20th) on the list not going to Parliament must be sad. Someone said that this wasn’t likely, why not?


      This article above seem to indicated that National had majority when it didn’t. One doesn’t know until all the votes are counted.

      Looking at the results; it’s funny that Labor won much more electoral seats (35), and very few list seats (5). Is this common in MMP that the second largest party wins more electorates than List Seats? Is this because Labor’s support is overly concentrated in Urban Areas?

      It’s interesting that the Greens did not do better this time, nor did they do any worse. What to make of this election is that John Key is teflon, and Labor keeps doing worse after each election. Why is the National Party considered to be the natural party of government in NZ?

      I heard that John Key lost votes in his electorate, and the National Party lost party votes in his electorate as well. What to make of that?

      • Labour won so many electorate and so few list seats because their candidates are more popular than their party. For example, in Hutt South, Labour MP Trevor Mallard won 16,836 votes, while the Labour list won only 10,903. In this electorate, the National, NZ First, and Green candidates were all behind their respective parties. This happened all around the country, and I don’t think it has much to do with where Labour’s vote is.

  11. In reply to Tom Round, the calculation of the number of Maori electorates takes into account all those of Maori decent (those eligible to be on the Maori Roll, or will be eligible once they turn 18), and the proportion of those eligible that choose (after each 5-yearly census) to be on the Maori Roll. Due to Maori having an above-average proportion of under-18yr-olds, there are fewer people on the Roll of each Maori Electorate than each General Electorate. All Electorates aim for the same population size (rather than number on the Roll). More detail.
    In combination with a lower turnout in the Maori Seats, the number of votes required in practice to become a MP in a Maori Seat is somewhat lower than a General Seat (20,700 – 23,900 votes cast vs 34,000 average per Electorate). The Party Vote is not directly impacted by this, but pointed comments were made when the Maori Party had ‘overhang’ electorate seats – their MPs required fewer actual votes than other MPs.

  12. Thanks for that, Errol, clarifies things nicely as I had picked up conflicting datums from the media reports over the years as to which measure applied.
    (Like hearing both “Vanuatu uses PR” and “Vanuatu uses FPTP” when in fact Vanuatu uses SNTV. Australian reporters quickly get bored by electoral details).
    Would you say that tactical voting in the districts is less common than in a pure FPTP election, at least if one’s preferred party is likely to clear the list threshold? It would be ironic if MMP meant that ticks against a district candidate’s name actually did represent real first preference votes… something that ticks do not do under FPTP alone.
    (This, by the way, explains why – despite proposals by some – you can’t really use AV for the district component of an MMP system. The list vote already functions as a second preference. If you vote for both (say) the Greens candidate and the Greens list, and the former loses at district level, then your single vote is in effect “transferred” to the first, then the second, then the third (and so forth) non-district-elected candidate on the Greens list. AV would complicate things by inviting you to express a different and almost certainly conflicting second or third preference at district level, which would “transfer” your vote to a different party.)

    • I don’t really see district level AV as an issue. My take on MMP is that you vote for the PERSON you want to serve your district with your district vote and the party that you want in parliament with your second vote. I see no inherent conflict in saying “I want Party A in Parliament and Candidate A1 for my district. But if A1 isn’t going to win the local ballot, then I’d want my vote helping Candidates B, C, D, etc…”

      • (Mark @11:58) if one views the local vote as purely for an individual candidate, then a parallel system a` la Japan or The Philippines would make more sense than MMP. Whereas the fact that, under MMP, local seats won by a party’s candidates are deducted from its proportionate entitlement to give its allowance of list seats indicates that a vote for Jack Goodbloke, local identity, qua individual, is also counted in some sense as a party vote for Jack Goodbloke’s party.
        Also what MSS said. If AV is used for the districts, should (eg) Greens voters still win (say) 8% of the seats overall if and given that their 8% of the votes elected no district candidates under the Greens banner as such, but did help another two or three dozen Labo[u]r candidates defeat [c]onservative candidates via second preferences in the local contests?

      • No, Tom, parallel MMM does not make more sense. MMP combines having a single-seat district representative with overall proportionality. MMM also has district representatives, but without the list tier making the result proportional. Why does having the nominal tier be about district-level local representation rather than a tier that affects the overall result mean the two should be disconnected? It’s actually the opposite: MMM delivers district-level representation which DOES affect the overall result, making the nominal tier more about parties than the nominal tier in MMP is. As I see it, one of the virtues of MMP is that you don’t have to face the dilemma many FPTP voters can have when their preferred party puts forward a candidate you don’t like. Under MMP you can vote for a different party’s candidate, safe in the knowledge that it is your party votes which dictates the overall party composition of parliament. Under MMM, the nominal tier is much more like pure FPTP, as the result has a major effect on how many seats each party gets in total.

        Greens electing both local candidates from other parties and getting their share of total seats is not really double representation as it doesn’t affect the overall result. As I pointed out below, tactical voting is already happening; AV would only formalise it and make it easier, with voters not having a spoiler dilemma. Under an AV-MMP system, Green voters, as now, would not be adding seats to the Labour total (except in case of overhang). Let’s say AV reduced spoiler effects to such an extent that Labour wins an extra 4 seats as a result of channelling 100% of Greens’ preferences to Labour electorate candidates. What would their total be? Still 32 – the only difference being that more of their elected candidates would be elected from electorate seats.

        Now, you may say to that: of course, but then you have more Labour MPs owing their seats to Green votes. And yes, that’s true, but that’s already the case – not only for small parties but also for large party (say, National) voters electing a different party’s candidate for the electorate (say: ACT). As Wilfred says, as many as 35% of NZ voters are splitting their ballots – and in every case where they succeed in electing a district candidate, they are counted ‘double’ as MSS termed it. The only way to eliminate that is by introducing a single ballot for both tiers.

    • I too fail to see the problem with AV for the nominal tier. Neither of MMP’s two votes are meant to be a second preference, though certainly some make use of their electorate vote in such a way. But what they’re really doing is simply voting tactically – something that would be unecessary under AV.

      MMP with AV would ensure wider support for electorate MPs while make minor party candidates more viable (while eliminating their spoiler effect) and make electorates more competitive all round.

      • I have argued before (somewhere on this blog) that AV might be incompatible with MMP. While I see the points Mark and JD are making, it does not seem fair to me that votes for a party that is under-represented in the nominal tier (electorates) get “compensated” on the list tier even though these voters have already been “compensated” in another sense, through having their votes potentially used to elect some candidate from their own schedule of preferences.

        That is, AV and MMP are two different ways to compensate voters whose (first) choice did not win the district. Using both of them seems to entail some over-counting of such voters.

        The Jenkins Commission in the UK proposed such a system, albeit with very limited compensation via the lists. The British Columbia Citizens Assembly considered such a model before settling on its proposal for STV.

      • Isn’t such ‘over-counting’ already happening through tactical voting, though? Many Greens voters are voting tactically, thus being compensated for not voting their first preference, by electing a Labour electorate MP instead of the National MP they might have got had they voted for a Green candidate; meanwhile, they are compensated through the list vote as well.

      • MMP with AV for the local member, as recommended by Jenkins, has a new lease on life in Canada. PR advocates in the Liberal Party are promoting it, Liberal Party policy is that, within 12 months of the 2015 election, an all-Party process, involving expert assistance and citizen participation, will recommend electoral reforms including “a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation.” Jenkins is the “and” in the “and/or.” I see no problem. The party make-up comes from the party ballot. The local MP results are disproportional, whether by FPTP or AV. And they may be the result of strategic voting in FPTP — about 35% of New Zealand voters split their ballots. So the only result of the AV ballot is to increase, or decrease, the disproportionality being compensated. This could matter under “MMP-lite” with not enough compensatory MPs. But even then, it might well help. In a conservative region in Canada, a Conservative sweep of the local seats might be hard to compensate for, but might well be mitigated by “anyone-but-Conservative” voters electing one or two local Liberal or NDP MPs under AV. In most cases, it won’t make much difference, since many studies show AV electing the first-place candidate 95% or 98% of the time (93% of the time in 2011 in Canada). So why bother? It it makes some Liberal Party members happy, why not?

      • Does the Liberal Party’s support for “a preferential ballot and/or a form of proportional representation” refer to STV? Of course, it could, in theory. However, no one has seriously proposed STV for Canadian federal elections. Too much geography here. With districts ranging from four-seaters to seven-seaters, they would have populations between 402,000 and 703,000. Might be okay in the 50% of Canada that live in communities that size or larger. For the other 50% of us, no local MPs. Districts in BC, where it was proposed for provincial elections, are only half that size, and even there the map proposed for the second referendum was problematic.

  13. I added a note in the main post about the final results, which put National at 60 seats out of 121, and thus not (quite) a majority in its own right.

  14. In reply to Henry (04/10/2014 at 9:22 pm), it is not necessarily true that Labour candidates are more popular than their party. Rather, they pick up votes from a large chunk of the Green Party’s list votes. That is, these are strategic votes (preferring Labour over National in the electorate) rather than personal votes (favoring the candidate).

    I discussed this distinction above, in the main post.

    • I don’t think that MMP is incompatible with the alternative vote system as long as it is a one vote MMP system using Australian preferential voting. The First Preference is a vote for the candidate in the district as well as a party vote. That would be a great system for those countries that have problems with decoy lists. Could a party with a one vote MMP system using Australian preferential voting game the system by causing a decoy list? That might back fire on them.

      Has anyone ever suggested an MMP system requiring a double threshold requiring a party to win one seat, and 2% of the vote to gain representation? Is there any MMP system that require a party to have won one electoral seat for representation on list seats and not just winning a percentage of the list votes? That last one would be very interesting, and would that produce a different party system and possibly more single party majorities or would small parties be dependent on the large parties giving them a seat just so they have seats on the list vote. This could be the reason why some people think that MMP is a two class system, and that the list seats are the backdoor into parliament especially NZ coming from a FPTP background. It would be interesting for a country coming from a List PR background and adding single member districts to the corrective list adjustment tier and what that perspective would be. Maybe some in NZ favor some of the small parties at least winning one seat to gain representation for the list seats as they feel that they haven’t won anything with the list votes.

      Coming back to, I think having a two vote MMP system with an Australian Preferential Voting would be too complicated especially if the List Vote is just a bullet ballot, and the electorate vote is preferential. It would be better just to eliminate the electoral threshold in that case. Looking for a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. NZ MMP system works great, there is really no need to improve on it other than maybe lowering the threshold to 3% and that is it.

      • New Zealand MMP works great in a country with no regional sentiments, no provinces, less than four million people stuck in the middle of the ocean. The Law Commission of Canada concluded “Based on the feedback received during our consultation process, many Canadian voters would also most likely desire the flexibility of open lists in a mixed member proportional system. In essence, allowing voters to choose a candidate from the list provides voters with the ability to select a specific individual and hold them accountable for their actions should they be elected.” That calls for manageable “top-up” regions. Just as the Jenkins Commission concluded “additional members locally anchored” are “more easily assimilable into the political culture and indeed the Parliamentary system than would be a flock of unattached birds clouding the sky and wheeling under central party directions.”

      • Interesting comment about AV with 1-vote MMP.
        “Coming back to, I think having a two vote MMP system with an Australian Preferential Voting would be too complicated especially if the List Vote is just a bullet ballot, and the electorate vote is preferential.” Well, don’t give up because of a complexity issue… instead make the list vote preferential, which has the benefit of eliminating the threshold’s spoiler effect. All parties receiving 5% of first-preference votes are allowed in, with all other votes being redistributed based on second preferences. In NZ, it could mean the end of National propping up small parties, as their list votes would go on to National anyway. In Germany meanwhile, it would have prevented the current cross-cutting coalition by resulting in some sort of right-wing majority. Arguably the threshold might have to increase, to make up for the fragmentation-inducing effects of preferential list vote.
        “It would be better just to eliminate the electoral threshold in that case.” I rather miss the connexion.

      • JD, I would agree with the idea that preferences and MMP would work. However, it is a relatively rare idea. Perhaps this is because of the rarity of preferential voting; after all ,two of the three cases of preferential-party list hybrids are in Australia, a country familiar with preferential voting and unfamiliar with list systems, with the third being Georgia’s Borda-party list hybrid (which was used as the list tier for a mixed-member majoritarian system).
        What sort of approach to counting preferential votes would you suggest? Would you recommend all parties with votes below 5% having their preferences distributed, or would you exclude the lowest polling party until all parties in the count are above 5%?

      • Henry, I think both are interesting, but immediate exclusion of sub-threshold parties would probably be more acceptable, otherwise the incentives for fragmentation are very strong indeed, probably too strong for the threshold to be very meaningful at all.

      • JD @2:30, wouldn’t a 5% threshold be quite meaningful – even if there is “exhaustive” rather than “summary” elimination of the lowest parties until all remaining are over the threshold – in any election where are 20 or more seats?

      • Tom @4.11, this is of course a subjective question. I may have expressed myself too strongly above. Either way, a preferential PR vote would tend towards greater fragmentation, and it is likely that some will view that as problematic – preventing fragmentation is, after all, the central aim of thresholds. If one appreciates the result of AfD and FDP being excluded from the Bundestag last year, one might see a preferential party-vote as undesirable if the result is that more strategic CDU/CSU voters would have voted their true preference, with the latter parties as second preference. If this is a criterion (and, of course, it need not be), I think that the natural solution would be to raise the threshold somewhat, to 6 or 7%, to balance out the effects of preferential party-vote system, while not creating too many fully-wasted votes as raising the threshold usually would, as votes for sub-threshold parties would be redistributed.

  15. John Key has just resigned as Prime Minister of New Zealand. No, not because the Italian electorate voted “No” in a referendum. Probably something to do with the unstable governments and revolving-door prime ministers that invariably follow from proportional voting systems.

    • Yes, Tom, if only Atoaroha would adopt a majority system like Australia they would not have to worry about 5 prime ministers in the time Key has led the country. Oh wait…

      • “… the rejection of the referendum is bad news for the prospect of Italy’s government actually getting anything meaningful done. The country has long been ungovernable, because it has two chambers with equal powers to bring down the government, and its electoral system creates coalitions of squabbling small parties, which means governments cannot push through ambitious legislation and cycle together easily. To give some perspective on Italy’s governmental instability, Italy’s new prime minister will be the fifth to have the job since Angela Merkel took office in Germany…”
        Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, “European elites desperately need a dose of sanity”, The Week (6 December 2016)

      • Ironic that NZ has more stable governments with PR-MMP than Australia does with it’s Majoritarian-Preferential Voting System. Still what is next for NZ? Is any part of the Western World immune from populism? Oh wait a minute, there is Canada, and California.

  16. Pingback: MMP weekend: Germany and New Zealand 2017 | Fruits and Votes

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