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Oceania

Sep 23, 2017

Labour falling short in New Zealand

New Zealand's National Party government appears to have been returned, but it will have to deal with the populists to be sure of a majority.

Charles Richardson — Editor of The World is not Enough

Charles Richardson

Editor of The World is not Enough

Just a quick update on the New Zealand election, while Australian readers are still awake (it’s 9.30pm in New Zealand, two hours earlier in eastern Australia). It looks as if my suggestion the other day that some of Labour’s recent polling surge was soft has been borne out.

The average of the latest polling (as calculated by Wikipedia) put the centre-right National Party incumbents only narrowly ahead, about 43% to 41%. But with 63.6% of polling places reporting, official results show National with a much bigger lead, 46.6% to 35.4%.

Smaller, rural polling places tend to come in first, so that lead will go down, but not enough to change the electoral arithmetic. National (with which I include its ally ACT, whose sole MP holds what would otherwise be a safe National seat) has a big lead over Labour in seats, but is still short of a majority: on current numbers 60 to 44, with nine New Zealand First and seven Greens.

So assuming that later counting adds a seat or two to Labour’s total, it could theoretically put together a majority with the support of both the smaller parties. But there’s no rational reason why NZ First would do that; with National having outperformed expectations, denying it government would be a deeply unpopular move.

Labour is still much better placed than anyone expected a couple of months ago, so its new leader Jacinda Ardern can be proud of her achievement. Her parliamentary position is also strengthened by the fact that the Greens have stayed above the 5% threshold, which had been doubtful in some polls. (It’s a perverse effect of the threshold system that increases in a major party’s vote can sometimes hurt its own interests – I’ll have more to say about that soon, especially in connection with Germany.)

But unless there’s something utterly unexpected in late counting, or Winston Peters has some sort of brain explosion (always a possibility), it seems National’s Bill English has broken the curse of mid-term prime ministers and succeeded in winning a mandate of his own.

I’ll post any late developments in a few hours’ time.

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