NZ 2014 – winners and losers


I’ve previously blogged about the overall result – which parties gained and lost seats, and the regional variations in the vote. In this post, I will run through each of the key parties, and examine which parties have come out as winners or losers from the election. Two parties are clear winners: National and New Zealand First. While the result is relatively disappointing for the Green Party, the result is still a solid result for them. The Conservative Party gained a substantial swing but remain locked out of Parliament. It’s hard to put a positive spin on the result for Labour, the Maori Party, Internet Mana, ACT or United Future.

National Party

The election was a clear win for National. The party has won a third term in Parliament, and the first ever single-party majority under the MMP electoral system.

In part, National achieved its one-party majority by cannibalising its allies – its three ally parties, which elected eleven MPs between them in 2008, have only won four seats this time, and two of those seats were effectively gifted by the National Party. This means that, while National holds a majority of seats, it doesn’t have a huge buffer, and it wouldn’t require that much of a swing in 2017 to put the result in play.

New Zealand First

NZ First were written off as irrelevant in New Zealand politics after the 2008 election, when the party fell below 5% and was excluded from Parliament. In 2011, Winston Peters’ party came back to become the first party in New Zealand politics to survive being excluded from Parliament.

Until the last few weeks of the campaign, NZ First was teetering on the edge of again falling below 5% of the vote, but rose in the polls just before election day. None of the polls, however, predicted the party would poll almost 9%, which will give them at least three more seats than in 2011.

The election also possibly sets the party up for a leadership transition. Winston Peters has been a member of Parliament since the 1980s, and has led NZ First since its foundation in 1993. One possible leadership contender, Ron Mark, returned to Parliament after an absence of six years. Mark polled over 20% of the electorate vote in Wairarapa – possibly setting up a future opportunity to win an electorate seat as a safety net.

Green Party

The result was disappointing for the Green Party, but overall it was no disaster. The party was hoping to poll 15% of the vote, which would have won them twenty seats. While the party was never expected to win 15%, the party was polling at a level that led to expectations that the party would exceed its 2011 record of 11% of the vote and fourteen seats.

Instead, the Greens appear to have won 10% of the vote and thirteen seats, although that might increase slightly on late counting. While the party did not meet expectations, it’s worth remembering that this is the party’s second-best result – prior to 2011, the Greens had never won more than nine seats in Parliament.

The most disappointing element for the Green Party would have to be the overall performance of the left. The party was hopeful of going into government with Labour, but Labour’s low vote made that not a viable option. The party remains in a solid position to enter government in 2017, if Labour can rebuild its vote.

Conservative Party

The Conservative Party failed in its second attempt to win seats in Parliament, despite spending a large amount of money on the campaign.

Yet the result is encouraging for the party – at 4.1%, the party is within shooting distance of winning 5% at the 2017 election. While the National Party made a decision to not do any deals in 2014, they may feel differently if the party is not polling so well in the lead-up to the 2017 election. If the Conservative Party can get its polling above 5%, it may become easier to win right-wing votes from those voters who are worried about their vote going to waste.

Labour Party

The result was a disaster for Labour. The party vote, just under 25%, is the party’s worst result since 1922. The party is a long way away from winning an election-winning vote, and has lost a number of key MPs.

The party was remarkably successful at winning back control of the Māori seats. Labour won all seven Maori seats in 2002, but by 2008 had been reduced to two seats. On Saturday Labour doubled its Maori seats from three to six. But while this was effective at knocking out Internet Mana, and puts the Māori Party on the verge of defeat, it didn’t do much for Labour’s party vote. Labour continued to dominate the party vote in Maori electorates even while losing the electoral races, so winning back those seats has a minimal impact on Labour’s ability to win more net seats.

Labour also has a more general problem where they have done quite well at winning electorate seats while suffering from a declining party vote. This has resulted in Labour winning almost all of its list seats, and a number of MPs with quite a high list ranking missed out on a seat. This effect may simply be due to Green and NZ First voters casting an electorate vote for their local Labour candidate but giving their party vote to the minor party of choice, but it’s still a problem for Labour.

While it is devastating for the National Party to win a majority in their own right, the fact remains that National has very few allies in the Parliament. A relatively small swing from right to left could put Labour in the position of governing with Green and NZ First in 2017 – but it will be hard for the Greens and NZ First to work together in government, and NZ First may instead choose to rekindle its relationship with National.

Māori Party

The Māori Party suffered a net loss of one seat, falling from three seats to two. On its face, this doesn’t look that bad, but the detail of what seats the party lost suggest that the party is far more vulnerable now than at the last election. In the past, the Māori Party held a number of electorate seats – three in 2011, down from a peak of five in 2008. This ensured that the party did not have to rely on victory in any one electorate to stay in the Parliament.

But with the loss of Tāmaki Makaurau and Te Tai Hauāuru, held respectively by the party’s original two co-leaders, Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia, the party now relies on winning Te Ururoa Flavell’s single electorate seat of Waiariki to remain in Parliament. Flavell won with only 45% of the electorate vote, and could only pull in 21% of the party vote. If Labour were to focus resources on Waiariki, they may be able to wipe out the Māori Party. It’s certainly hard to see them surviving Flavell’s retirement.

Internet Mana

The election was disastrous for both parties in this alliance.

For the Mana Movement, they have lost their one toehold in the Parliament. The party had struggled to win support beyond Hone Harawira’s seat of Te Tai Tokerau, despite the party trying to broaden support beyond Māori activists to be a radical left-wing party for the entire country. The alliance with the Internet Party saw the party lose some of its core members, and may have made it harder for Hone Harawira to hold on in Te Tai Tokerau. The party is centred around Harawira, and it’s unclear whether the party, either with or without Harawira, will re-emerge at a future election.

The Internet Party was an interesting new force in New Zealand politics, but seemed set to miss out on Parliamentary representation until the announcement of the alliance with Mana. It seemed like a smart move at the time – the Internet Party would qualify for Parliament due to Harawira’s seat in Te Tai Tokerau, and Mana could elect extra MPs on a joint list with a party with a healthy campaign budget and a new, exciting message.

But the result proved that the Internet Party was a dud, always weighed down by the questionable position of the party’s founder and chief funder, Kim Dotcom. It seems unlikely that Dotcom will continue to fund the party as a serious force in New Zealand politics over the next three years.

ACT New Zealand

The 2011 election was a disaster for ACT – while the party held on to its electorate of Epsom (thanks to National effectively forfeiting a safe seat), the party vote was so low that no list MPs were elected, including its leader Don Brash. After its only MP John Banks was removed from the leadership, the new leader, Jamie Whyte, promised a new start for ACT and expected the party to win a solid vote. That never came close to happening.

Clearly National voters are happy to vote for the ACT candidate if the party asks them to, but no New Zealanders are interested in sending a party vote to ACT. While this result was roughly similar to ACT’s result in 2011, ACT’s new MP David Seymour is far less experienced than his predecessor John Banks, who had been Mayor of Auckland and a former cabinet minister. If ACT is reduced to a single seat on the backbenches supporting National, will it be worth National’s while to be tied to this micro-party again in 2017?

United Future

This party, that managed to win over 5% of the vote in 2002, is now effectively dead as a political party. The party polled a lower party vote than the Legalise Cannabis party, and qualified for zero seats in Parliament, despite winning an electorate seat. Peter Dunne continues to win his seat with the tacit endorsement of the National Party, but never by a huge margin. The party will likely cease to exist when Dunne retires from Parliament, but could do so sooner if a Labour resurgence sees Dunne defeated in Ōhariu.

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  1. ‘While it is devastating for the National Party to win a majority in their own right’ excuse for asking but why is that ‘devastating’. Is not it a good thing? I think it proves that they are the best government to have at the moment.

  2. Having said that, I’m comfortable saying that it’s not a good thing for a political system to be dominated by any one party – a well-designed electoral system should only produce one-party majorities in rare circumstances.

  3. If Labour focussed resources on Waiariki as you say and defeated the Māori Party, wouldn’t they effectively just be exchanging one list seat for one electorate seat, at no net gain for Labour?

    (Still trying to get my head around the interesting tactical opportunities presented by MMP.)

  4. It depends. If the Maori Party vote is high enough to bring in list seats, then you could see Labour win one or more of the seats the Maori Party would have otherwise won. If Labour had won Waiariki, I think one of those two seats would’ve gone to Labour and the other to National, but it’s possible that Labour’s seat would have instead gone to National or NZ First.

  5. Thank you Ben Rāꞌue (that’s what your name looks like to Taranaki Māori/Cook Island Māori/Probably other Polynesians, 🙂 ) Your public work has been incredibly appreciated by at least one person. Just one point: ‘people’ were saying that the Māori party were gonna be dead after Turia and Sharple’s retirement, so I’d be cautious about making the same statement re: Flavell. Otherwise, thanks again, for your contribution to our political world.

  6. Ben, why does NZ use so many polling stations? The official results were indicating over 7,000 polling stations were used, whereas Australia also uses about 7,000 polling places at general elections despite our much larger population and area. What’s the difference in NZ, do they just use a lot more venues with consequently smaller voter numbers at each, or is the number made up in different ways? Sorry if this is probably explained in your other material and I just haven’t been paying attention.

  7. I enjoyed you coverage of New Zealand’s election. Just a small typo under the heading “ACT New Zealand” you write “The 2011 election was a disaster for New Zealand First” instead of ACT. It does seem like ACT can only really exist as a political party under a left wing government. When you have a generally liked center right party in power, especially one not run by a devout social conservative, the wind just gets blown out of their sails.

  8. I would say the reason for more polling stations in New Zealand is because voting is optional, so there’s more of an onus on the New Zealand Electoral Commission to ensure voting is convenient for people if they want to get a reasonable turnout.

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