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.*
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. Continue reading