New Zealand 2008 Archive


NZ: an evolving party system

New Zealand has experienced a huge amount of change in its party system over the last two decades. The resignation of Jim Anderton from the Labour Party in 1989, which resulted in the formation of the Alliance in 1991, was followed by the formation of New Zealand First in 1993, and a huge amount of party evolution over the term of the 1993-6 Parliament. Following the first MMP election in 1996, every single party in the Parliament included former members of the Fourth Labour Government of 1984-90, including the National government.

In the early years of MMP, the minor parties were largely dominated by parties led by former major party politicians, particularly Alliance, New Zealand First and ACT. After gradual evolution, the recent campaign has moved New Zealand’s party system onto a different level.

The vast number of political parties have effectively been reduced to five parties, all of which appear to have a path to long term sustainability. The three remaining parties that were dominated by major-party splitters, NZF, UF and Progressive, were reduced to two seats. Winston Peters’ party was destroyed, while Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton have effectively been reduced to independent MPs, and their parties are expected to disappear with their eventual retirements. Indeed, this could be hastened sooner, with Dunne barely holding on over either Labour or National in his seat, with a three-way race barely going his way.

For a long time the political spectrum was crowded, with ACT, United Future and New Zealand First competing for the conservative minor party vote, and with Alliance and later Progressive competing with the Greens and later the Maori Party for the progressive minor party vote. With the demise of NZF, UF and Progressive, ACT, the Greens and to a lesser extent the Maori Party appear to be in a much stronger position to solidify their role in New Zealand politics.

Indeed, NZ politics now closely resembles German politics, with a centre-left major party, a centre-right major party, a libertarian right-wing minor party and a left-wing green party. The main divergence is the existence of the Maori Party. Such a political make-up suggests a much more stable long-term political system.

The other aspect of the 2008 campaign was the formation of pre-election coalitions, with all parties except the Maori Party clearly indicating which major party they would support. For ACT and the Greens, rather than attempting to use their seats to leverage power, they campaigned to National and Labour voters respectively as another option to vote for the same party for government while pushing them in a particular direction.

It is quite conceivable that both ACT and the Greens, which have a much clearer political niche now carved out than Progressive, United Future or New Zealand First ever did, can now carve out a long-term base that will allow them to solidify their position as supportive but critical allies of National and Labour respectively.

It is less clear what will happen to the Maori Party, who have failed to increase their party vote and will be vulnerable to a resurgent Labour Party in the Maori electorates, and would disappear if the Maori seats were eventually abolished. Yet it is clear that NZ politics is suddenly much more stable and consistent than it has been since the late 1980s.


New Zealand update

Sorry I’ve been a bit slow in posting over the last few days. I thought I’d kick off again with a summary of the results in New Zealand.

Four days after the NZ election, New Zealand is on track for its quickest government formation since the introduction of MMP, and you can’t come to any other conclusion than that last Saturday’s result was a landslide victory for the National Party and its allies.

As of the latest results, the seat distribution is:

  • National – 59
  • Labour – 43
  • Greens – 8
  • ACT – 5
  • Maori – 5
  • One seat each for Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton

National will be forming a government with ACT and Peter Dunne, and appears likely to establish some sort of relationship with the Maori Party.

In terms of a result, it was a good result for National, ACT and to a lesser extent the Greens and the Maori Party. Clearly National performed strongly and it is hard to imagine them being in a stronger position. ACT will both benefit from being National’s #1 ally, but also from having increased their numbers substantially. Many polls suggested ACT would come into government without gaining a single seat, but ended up gaining three. The Greens also gained ground, although polls suggested they would gain more ground than they did, and their influence will be dramatically reduced under a National government. The Maori Party gained ground and will be in a more influential position, but predictions of the MP sweeping the Maori seats did not come to pass, and you would have to think that this was the best opportunity to sweep out the Labour MPs in the two seats Labour held on to.

It was clearly a disastrous result for New Zealand First, and a bad result also for what remains of United Future and Progressive, both of whom have been reduced to one MP. Jim Anderton and Peter Dunne are now effectively independent MPs. Their parties should disappear when the two men retire. While Dunne, at 54, could last for many years to come, Anderton is now 70 years old, and it is only a matter of time before he retires and his seat returns to Labour.

For Labour, there are two scenarios which they could follow. It is conceivable they could return to power in 2011. The “right bloc” holds 65 seats, while the “left bloc” holds 52 seats. Only three seats need to change hands to put the Maori Party in the balance of power, and a slightly larger swing could see Labour in a very strong position to form a government with the Greens and the Maori Party. If Labour holds it together and the economy continues to decline, it’s conceivable to see a small swing back to Labour in 2011.

On the other hand, if Labour struggles to find its role in opposition, it could have a long way to fall. The re-election of the Labour government in 2002 saw former Cabinet minister Bill English suffer a massive defeat, with his National Party reduced to 27 seats. Likewise, Labour has elected a former Cabinet minister as Phil Goff, who could suffer a similar decline, if left-leaning parties like the Greens and Maori Party cannabilise Labour’s support, and Goff is not seen as a break with the Clark government. In this scenario, Key could gain a majority in Parliament, since minor parties are much weaker today than they were in 2002, and this would undoubtedly result in more of a levelling in 2014.


Liveblogging New Zealand

9:45pm – One more thing. Since the electorate seats seem to all have been determined, I’ve adjusted the colours of all general seats on my Google Earth map and will upload that right now, so that you can see the new distribution immediately.

9:40pm – I’m gonna finish up now. It appears that someone like Phil Goff is on track to be the next leader of the Labour Party. John Key should give his victory speech soon. One other point: with all electorate seats seemingly locked down, Labour seems to be entirely restricted to urban areas. All Labour general seats lie within Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, along with one seat in Palmerston North, a largely urban electorate surrounded by provincial electorates.

9:31pm – Helen Clark announces she will be resigning as Labour leader and expects a new leader by Christmas.

9:28pm – Helen Clark is currently conceding defeat to John Key. To sum up, with 99.8% of booths reporting, National is on track for 59 seats, Labour has won 43 seats, the Green Party have won 8, ACT 5, Maori Party 5, and one each for Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton.

8:13pm – We’re now seeing most of the results becoming clear. ACT and Maori Party will each win five seats, while Peter Dunne and Jim Anderton will each win their own seats but not bring in any list MPs. New Zealand First has been defeated. The Greens have won at least eight seats but I’m not ruling out a ninth. They are on 6.47%, while they won 9 seats with 7% in 2002. Considering that all of New Zealand First’s votes will go to waste, it should be easier for them to win that ninth seat this time. National should win 58-59 seats, while Labour will win 43-44. National will have the numbers to form a government with ACT and possibly Peter Dunne.

7:46pm – 32 of 46 booths reporting in Ohariu, and the lead remains the same, with Labour 2.8% behind. It seems unlikely there will be a change, although Dunne will be in a lot of danger in 2011.

7:43pm – More than 2/3s of the polling booths have reported their party votes, and Labour has gained a few more seats, up to 43. The Greens are up to 6.43%, what do they need to win a ninth seat?

7:32pm – This is the fifth election in NZ since the introduction of MMP. The first election saw almost one-third, 39 seats, go to minor parties. This fell to 32 in 1999, and increased to 33 in 2002. There was a big drop in 2005, with only 22 elected. At the moment, it appears that only 20 minor party MPs will be elected, and this could fall to as low as 18.

7:30pm – Most of the attention for minor parties in this campaign went to the Maori Party. Yet when you watch the results tonight, the Maori Party has still only polled 2% of the vote and appears to be gaining only one extra electorate seat. In contrast, ACT has gained three seats and the Greens have gained two, and may gain a third if this trend continues.

7:27pm – I’m ready to call that Labour will hold onto Ikaroa-Rawhiti and Hauraki-Waikato seats. The only two seats in question that could effect the overall numbers are Ohariu and Te Tai Tonga, where Peter Dunne and the Maori Party respectively are narrowly leading over Labour.

7:22pm – There has been a large jump in the count in Ohariu, with 24 of 46 booths reporting. National has fallen back, with Dunne on 32.5% and Labour on 30.5%.

7:15pm – I’ve already stopped following Tauranga, Epsom and Mangere, and I’m going to add Wigram to that list, where Anderton is now leading by 14%. I’m on the verge of calling Ikaroa-Rawhiti and Hauraki-Waikato for Labour. The Maori Party is falling back to earth in Te Tai Tonga, where their lead is now less than 3%.

7:12pm – We’re starting to see clear trends. Greens and ACT gain seats, NZF wiped out, Maori Party looking at 5 seats in Parliament, and Jim Anderton holding his one seat. Labour have lost seats and National are no track to form government with ACT. The most interesting contest is Ohariu, where Peter Dunne is in a fierce race with both major parties. If he loses, it will be the end of his party.

6:57pm – Ohariu is shaping into the most clearcut three-horse race ever. National has retaken second position, and Dunne leads by 3.1% with 9 of 46 counted. Ohariu is on the outskirts of Wellington, and presumably the more urban booths are yet to come in, and will favour Labour.

6:55pm – As far as the key electorates, Rodney Hide is well in front in Epsom. National will win Tauranga. In Wigram, Jim Anderton is leading by 12% and is out of danger. Peter Dunne in Ohariu is only 2.9% ahead of Labour and could be in danger. The Maori Party look on track to win Te Tai Tonga, although the race has narrowed. They are falling further behind in the other two Labour-held Maori seats.

6:52pm – NZF is fading in the party vote, down to 4.3%, and has no chance in Tauranga. It’s looking all over for Winston.

6:49pm – Both ACT and the Greens are gaining ground in the party vote, and ACT has just ticked over from four seats to five.

6:48pm – In Peter Dunne’s seat of Ohariu, Labour has overtaken National and are now within 3 points of Dunne. Could this be the end of the road for New Zealand First AND United Future?

6:44pm – Maori lead in Te Tai Tonga is narrowing, down to 6 points, after peaking at 10 points. In Ikaroa-Rawhiti Labour is now ahead by 10 points, but Hauraki-Waikato has narrowed to four points.

6:40pm – Greens picking up support in the party vote. They had fallen to 6.1% but are back up to almost 6.3%.

6:38pm – Although very few votes have been counted in the key minor party seats, 13% of booths have reported the party vote. National, on 62 seats, has a slim majority in a 122-seat chamber, and a more solid majority with 67 for National-ACT-UF.

6:18pm – A few more votes registered in Ikaroa-Rawhiti and Labour has increased its lead from 50-44 to 51-43.

6:09pm – New Zealand First is performing quite well on the party vote, but the vote is starting to drift downwards. It’s too early to say that NZF will return, and if NZF manage to return and the Maori Party gain all seven seats, then it will be harder for NAT/ACT to form a majority.

6:08pm – It appears that the count has slowed down in the key electorates. The only progress has been in Te Tai Tonga, where the gap is down to eight points, with Labour gaining 2%.

6:06pm – It appears very unlikely that Labour will form a government, although current projections of National winning a majority are unlikely to hold up.

6:02pm – In the party vote, with 5.9% counted, leans towards a National majority government. National has 48.7%, Labour 31.5%, Greens 6.2%, Maori 2.1%, ACT 3.3%, NZF on 4.6%, and Jim Anderton and Peter Dunne on track to be the sole MPs for their parties.

6:01pm – The Maori Party is strongly ahead in their four current seats. In the other three, the party is leading 47-37 in Te Tai Tonga (South Island) and trailing by 6% in the other two seats.

5:54pm – Jim Anderton is on 40% in Wigram, with National on 32%.

5:53pm – Rodney Hide is miles ahead in Epsom, polling over 60% with one booth in.

5:51pm – In Ohariu, UF leader Peter Dunne is only just ahead of Labour and National with two booths in. Dunne has 33%, with National on 28% and Labour on 27%.

5:49pm – Antony Green has pointed out that Labour gained 4%, National lost 4.5%, the Greens went up slightly and NZF went down slightly between the end of the counting of advance votes (which is where we are now) and the final count.

5:47pm – In Tauranga, with 2 of 38 booths counted, Simon Bridges of the National Party is on 61% with Winston Peters on 23%. It’s early, but not looking good.

5:41pm – Sorry about the delay. I’m onboard now. I suggest for more coverage you take a look at Pollbludger‘s coverage and Antony Green at the ABC. You can see raw results at the NZ elections website. I’ll come back in a minute with a summary of where we are at.

5:00pm – Polls just closed in New Zealand. I don’t know how long it will take before we start seeing results, but here we go…


New Zealand ’08: What to watch for on election night

Polls close in New Zealand at 7pm NZDT (5pm AEDT). I’m not sure how long the count will take, but I should be liveblogging from 5:15pm AEDT. I thought I’d run through what are the key points to follow.

Labour-National marginal seats – DON’T bother yourself watching these (unless you’ve really got nothing better to do). While force of Australian habit would suggest that you keep an eye on how these fall, it really doesn’t make a difference. In addition to not making a difference in the overall seat count, the defeat of any key figures on either side in an electorate seat will not be significant, as most senior figures are also placed high on their party’s list, meaning they will be returned if they lose their electorate seat.

Hauraki-Waikato, Ikaria-Rāwhiti and Te Tai Tonga – polls suggest that the four sitting Maori Party MPs are safe in their electorates. On the other hand, these three seats are held by Labour, and polls suggest all three will be close. Barring an exceptionally high party vote, the number of Maori seats won by the Maori Party will determine their total numbers in Parliament, and the size of the overhang. A large overhang will likely make it more difficult for National and ACT to win a majority of seats.

Epsom, Ohariu and Wigram – these three seats are respectively held by the leaders of ACT, United Future and Progressive. None of these are expected to be close, but a defeat for one of these leaders would see that party knocked out of Parliament.

Tauranga – this seat, formerly held by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, will likely be the key to his party’s survival. Unless they perform well in the party vote, this is NZF’s only lifeline. Polls suggest the Nationals are well in front.

The party bloc votes – It’s worth adding up the votes for the “left bloc” of Labour, Progressive and Greens on one side and National, ACT and United Future on the other to get an idea of their relative performance.

New Zealand First’s party vote – If New Zealand First manages somehow to poll over 5%, they will return to Parliament and will dramatically alter the make-up of any “left bloc”, with tensions between NZF and the Greens almost as bad as those between NZF and National. They may also return to a kingmaker position, as, while National has rejected them, Peters insists his party is undecided and may well force John Key to change his mind if Peters is in the key position.

Maori Party’s party vote – If the Maori Party vote performs strongly, they may well gain list seats in addition to Maori seats. With their current four seats, a vote above 3% could see them win list seats. If they win all seven, then they would need close to 6% to win an eighth seat.


Electorates: National will win 37 electorates, Labour 24 (including Ikaroa-Rāwhiti), Maori Party six, and one each for ACT, UF and Progressive.

Party vote:

  • National – 45.5%
  • Labour – 34.2%
  • Greens – 8.5%
  • Maori – 4.0%
  • NZ First – 3.5%
  • ACT – 3.0%
  • United Future – 0.8%
  • Progressive – 0.5%

Overall seat count:

  • National – 56
  • Labour – 42
  • Greens – 11
  • Maori – 6
  • ACT – 4
  • UF – 1
  • Progressive – 1

This would give the right bloc 61 seats and the left bloc 54. The Maori Party would become irrelevant, with NAT-ACT-UF holding a one-seat majority, although they would likely look to make some arrangement with the Maori Party to strengthen their position.

So what’s your prediction?

Update: If you want to make your own prediction, there is a calculator on the NZ elections website that allows you to input numbers of electorate seats and %s of the party vote and it spits out the numbers of total seats.


NZ update: United Future and key electorate polls

With six days to go before the New Zealand general election, there has been little change in the campaigns. The opinion polls retain the essential elements:

  • National leads the polls, with the party running close to 50% support.
  • Labour trailing in the mid-to-high 30s.
  • Greens the clearly leading minor party, tending towards high single figures.
  • New Zealand First consistently polling well below the 5% threshold.
  • ACT, United Future and Progressive all polling at or below their 2005 results.

The only piece of news was the announcement from United Future that they would support a National-led government. This has led to the unusual position where seven of the eight main parties are now aligned to one of two multiparty blocs: Labour, Greens, Progressive and New Zealand First on one side and National, ACT and United Future on the other. This should lead to an easier election call on Saturday night than in the past, with only two scenarios appearing possible: a National-ACT-UF majority or the Maori Party holding the balance of power, in which case the party would negotiate with both blocs to form a government.

So I thought it would be worth examining the races in key electorates. While there are many marginal seats where National and Labour are competing, where polls have been conducted, these seats will not make a difference to the overall total. There are seven key seats, being those where minor parties have a chance. In Ohariu and Wigram, United Future leader Peter Dunne and Progressive leader Jim Anderton are on track to be safely re-elected, allowing their parties to return to Parliament. ACT leader Rodney Hide and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters will need to win their respective Epsom and Taurange electorates for their parties to return to Parliament. The Maori Party appear on track to win more Maori seats than their party vote will warrant, meaning their total number of seats will rely on how many they can win. I thought we’d run through recent polls in these electorates.


A recent poll placed Rodney Hide on 56%, with former Epsom MP and sitting National list MP on 27%, suggesting that Hide will be safely re-elected.


Winston Peters lost the seat in 2005, and will need to win the seat back from the National Party if New Zealand First is to stay in Parliament, as the party is consistently polling below 5%. Courtesy of Curiablog, a One News Colmar Brunton poll predicts:

  • Simon Bridges (Nat) 54%
  • Winston Peters (NZF) 28%

Maori seats party vote

Digipoll conducted electorate polls in all seven Maori seats, with the first conducted in late September/early October, with the last conducted in the last fortnight. As well as polling Maori seat votes, the polls asked Maori voters how they would cast their party vote. Averaging out the seven polls, the party vote in the Maori seats comes out as:

  • Maori Party: 41.5%
  • Labour Party: 39.9%
  • National Party: 6.7%
  • NZ First: 5.1%
  • Green Party: 3.8%

The latest redistribution produced 7 Maori seats and 63 general seats, meaning that the Maori roll makes up approximately 10% of the electorate. This would put the Maori Party on 4.15%, excluding any votes won on the general roll. This would give the party 6 or 7 seats, which could result in the party winning list seats, depending on their performance in the electorate vote.

In the seven Maori seats, the four sitting Maori Party MPs are predicted to win substantially-increased majorities. In the three Labour-held seats, one seat has the Maori Party candidate leading by 6%, while the sitting Labour MPs hold slim leads in the other two seats.


The new electorate, covering the southern fringe of Auckland as well as Hamilton and the Coromandel peninsula, largely replaces Tainui, which was won by Labour against the Maori Party in 2005, 52.7% to 42.3%. The recent poll gave sitting Labour MP Nanaia Mahuta 50.3%, against 49.7% for the Maori Party candidate, an effective dead heat.


Covering the east coast of the North Island, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti was won by Labour in 2005, 53.7% to 42.8%. The recent poll has the sitting Labour MP still leading, by a smaller margin of 49.8% to 44.4%.

Tāmaki Makaurau

Covering most of the suburbs of Auckland, Tāmaki Makaurau was won by Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharpes, 52.4% to 41.2%. The recent poll has Sharples solidifying his seat, winning 77.4% of the vote.

Te Tai Hauāuru

Te Tai Hauāuru covers New Plymouth and much of the west coast of the North Island. Held by Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia, she was re-elected in 2005 with 63% of the vote. The recent poll gave Turia 78% of the vote in her electorate.

Te Tai Tokerau

Covering northland and the northern suburbs of Auckland, Te Tai Tokerau was won by Hone Harawira for the Maori Party 52.4% to 33.4%. The recent poll gave Harawira increased support, with 69%.

Te Tai Tonga

Te Tai Tonga covers the entire South Island and much of Wellington. Mahara Okeroa, the sitting Labour MP, won a third term with 47%, against 34% for the Maori Party candidate and 12% for the Greens list MP Metiria Turei. With a much lower-profile Greens candidate, the recent poll gave 46% to the Maori Party and 40% to Labour.


Waiariki covers central parts of North Island, including Rotorua, Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty. The seat was won by the Maori Party’s Te Ururoa Flavell, 54.6-39.5. The recent poll gives Flavell 72%, solidifying his lead.


New Zealand update

New Zealand goes to the polls on November 8 to elect its national Parliament. New Zealand uses the Mixed Member Proportional system (which is best explained by Deborah at Larvatus Prodeo) which means that, in addition to 63 general electorates, and 7 Maori electorates, 50 list MPs are elected to “top up” parties who win less electorates than their share of the vote warrants. Parties must poll over 5% or win one electorate seat to be allocated list seats, and if a party wins more electorates than their share of the vote warrants, an “overhang” is created.

The 2005 election saw the opposition National Party recover from its 2002 collapse, winning 48 seats to the Labour Party’s 50. The Greens lost three seats, falling to 6, while New Zealand First lost 6 seats, falling to 7. NZF leader Winston Peters lost his electorate seat of Tauranga, but NZF managed to stay above the 5% threshold. The libertarian ACT Party (founded by former Labour Finance Minister Roger Douglas) plummeted in the polls, and looked like losing all nine of its seats without an electorate seat, but a focused campaign by ACT leader Rodney Hide in the Auckland seat of Epsom saw him win the seat and bring one fellow list MP into Parliament with him. The Maori Party, founded with the resignation of Labour minister Tariana Turia, won four of the seven Maori seats of the Labour Party. United Future New Zealand fell from 8 seats to 5, while one of the two remaining Progressive MPs was defeated.

Labour formed a government with Progressive MP Jim Anderton, New Zealand First and United Future, with Winston Peters becoming Foreign Minister and UF leader Peter Dunne also taking a ministry. They also gained agreement from the Greens to abstain on matters of confidence and supply, guaranteeing the government a majority.

This campaign has seen an interesting development in New Zealand’s party system. Out of the six minor parties, four of them are committed to supporting one particular major party following the election. Jim Anderton, as the sole Progressive MP, has effectively become a bonus Labour MP, with his party having little chance of winning a second seat in the list seats. Indeed, Progressive’s party vote has collapsed so far that they may qualify for zero seats, meaning that Jim Anderton himself would fill an overhang. New Zealand First has been buffetted by crises and scandals, and National leader John Key has ruled out cooperating with the party. The Greens have announced that they will work with Labour after the election, after producing a policy checklist and then evaluating Labour and National against the criteria. On the other hand, ACT clearly are seen to favour National.

National has dominated polling for most of the year, regularly breaking 50%, raising the spectre of a National majority government. Yet Labour’s advantage lies with its better relationship with minor parties. Out of the six minor parties in Parliament, only ACT and the Maori Party have not played a part in supporting the Labour government in the last three years. Polls suggest that the Maori Party is on track to win 6 or even 7 of the Maori seats, even though their party vote will only warrant electing 3 or 4 Maori Party MPs, meaning that an overhang will be created, increasing the number of seats needed for a majority. The Green Party has also been polling strongly, suggesting an increase in Green MPs after the election. ACT have hovered around their 2005 levels, although they hold out high hopes of winning a third seat for the returning Roger Douglas. United Future appears to be on track to only win one seat. New Zealand First appears on track for defeat, with the party struggling to poll above 3%. Without the seat of Tauranga, which appears on track to stay with the Nationals, the party will lose all of its 7 seats.

So what are the implications for post-election talks? The polling average website Curiablog currently predicts National winning 60 seats to Labour’s 45, with Greens winning 9, Maori Party 6, ACT 2, Progressive and United Future 1 each and NZF being eliminated. In this situation, National could form a government with the support of ACT and United Future. But if National’s vote falls any further, they will have to rely on the Maori Party in the balance of power. The Maori Party represents a strongly left-wing constituency, which has previously tended towards Labour. Polls suggest their supporters want the Maori Party to go with the Labour Party. The Maori Party also has a strong relationship with the Greens, who have committed to support Labour. Yet despite the indications that the Maori Party would be a natural fit with Labour, the party appears to be straining to find an excuse to work with National, with co-leader Tariana Turia appearing to favour a National government while her fellow co-leader Pita Sharples favours Labour. Yet it hasn’t been easy. National remains committed to the abolition of the Maori seats in 2013, while the Maori Party wants the seats entrenched, which would require a referendum of Maori voters to abolish them. Racial gaffes by National politicians such as Shadow Immigration Minister Lockwood Smith have also harmed the chances of National forming a government with Labour the Maori Party.

The trends lean towards the Maori Party holding the balance of power. While they may wish to support a stronger National/ACT government, they may well be forced to choose a Labour/Green government instead.