NZ 2014 – election day

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Voters are now going to the polls in New Zealand to elect the next Parliament – and therefore their new government – for the next three years.

Polls close at 7pm tonight New Zealand time – which is 5pm where I am in Sydney. I will be covering the results from the time polls close tonight.

If I was in New Zealand, I wouldn’t be able to put up this post now – because New Zealand’s Electoral Act is extremely severe in effectively banning all political activity from midnight until polls close on election day. You can’t hand out at polling places, you can’t suggest to people how they should vote anywhere. Parties must take down all signs related to the election, and campaigners can’t wear campaign t-shirts on the day. It gets even more ridiculous than that – check out any New Zealand news website today, and there will be no evidence that the country is voting in a national election today. And even social media users are warned against stating who they voted for, or suggesting who others should vote for, lest they fall foul of the law and cop a hefty fine.

Personally I’m a fan of banning campaigning outside polling places, but restricting people talking about how they are voting on social media, or restricting newspapers from reporting the election, is going too far. In 2011, Antony Green posted about the spookily quiet scene outside of one of Auckland’s busiest polling places.

Fortunately, the law only applies to activity in New Zealand, so I’m free to talk about it here.

Most polls in the last few days suggest a few clear points:

  • A record-high vote for the National Party, likely just falling short of a majority
  • A very low vote for Labour, possible a record low vote.
  • A reasonably high Green vote, probably higher than the record vote recorded in 2011.
  • New Zealand First on track to poll over 5% and return to Parliament
  • The Conservative Party vote tracking more highly, but not over 5%.
  • Internet Mana polling relatively low, likely polling at a level that will win them two seats
  • ACT and United Future polling so low that their parties may qualify for zero seats, even if their parties win their respective electorates.

Read on for what the polling averages say, and what that could mean for the formation of New Zealand’s next government.

I’ve found three “poll of polls” from three different organisations in New Zealand, and I’ve posted their figures below.

Party2011 resultCuriablogOccasionally eruditePundit.co.nz
National47.347.547.647.9
Labour27.524.425.925.4
Green11.113.412.612.4
New Zealand First6.66.96.36.7
Conservative 2.74.03.33.9
Internet Mana 1.11.61.91.5
Māori 1.41.01.01.0
ACT 1.10.60.50.5
United Future0.60.20.1

All of these polling scenarios would see National fall just short of a majority, assuming that all minor party electorate MPs hold their seats. In that case, it seems likely that New Zealand First will hold the balance of power, although National could scrape over the line with ACT and United Future.

Recent electorate polling suggests that Hone Harawira of the Mana Party is in a tight race in his electorate. His victory would make the difference between Internet Mana winning possibly two seats, and winning none. The Māori Party is in serious danger in two of their three seats. If they lose those seats, it will reduce the overhang in the Parliament as the Māori Party will only qualify for one or two seats on its party vote.

I haven’t seen any polling in Epsom, but it seems quite possible that the continued plight of ACT (demonstrated by absolutely abysmal national polling) could see the party lose Epsom.

The National Party could well be kicking themselves that they refused to do a deal with the Conservative Party that would see the party guaranteed representation – the party’s vote has increased in recent weeks, and 3-4% of the right-wing vote is a lot to go to waste. The question of whether the Conservative Party crosses the 5% threshold could determine whether New Zealand First holding the balance of power.

To give a sense of how each key minor party electorate could effect the result, I have taken an average of the above polling averages and run the results calculator on a number of assumptions. First, I assumed that all electorates are won by the same party as in 2011. Then I produced four variations on that scenario – ACT loses their seat, Mana loses theirs, Māori loses two of their three, or the Conservative Party wins a seat.

PartySame electorates as 2011ACT loses in EpsomMana loses in Te Tai TokerauMaori Party lose 2/3 seatsConservative Party wins electorate
National6060616057
Labour3232323231
Green1616161615
New Zealand First89988
Conservative00005
Internet Mana22022
Māori33313
ACT10111
United Future11111
Total123123123121123

If the status quo holds, National, ACT and United Future will hold a one-seat majority in the Parliament, but if ACT loses their seat, then this alliance will fall short by one seat, and will need to form an alliance with the Māori Party or New Zealand First to form government.

If Hone Harawira is not re-elected in Te Tai Tokerau, Internet Mana is eliminated, and the two seats they would have won go to New Zealand First and National – in this scenario, National + ACT + United Future win one more seat than necessary to form a majority.

If the Māori Party lose two seats, it will simply reduce the overhang by two seats, but this will make it easier for ACT and United Future to give National a 62/121 majority. In all of these scenarios where National barely wins a majority with ACT and United Future, it would not be surprising to see the party bring in another party, such as the Māori Party or New Zealand First, to give the party more of a buffer in the Parliament. National did this in 2008 and 2011. At neither election did the National Party need the Māori Party to govern, but the addition of another party strengthened their position.

If the Conservative Party were to win a seat (which I don’t think they will), they would gain five seats, all being lost by the three biggest parties. While National would lose three seats, the overall size of the right-wing block would increase by two. National and Conservative could govern alone, with ACT and United Future providing a buffer of two more seats.

In none of these scenarios are Labour and Green in a position to form government – this could only take place if the polls are wrong, and Labour+Green polls better than the polls are suggesting.

I’ll be back at 5pm Sydney time/7pm New Zealand time tonight to cover the results, please join me then.

Please remember that it is illegal for New Zealanders to post about the election before 7pm tonight, so be careful with your comments.

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