New Zealand update

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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.

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