Monday, October 09, 2017

Update on the New Zealand elections

It is eleven days since my last post, one of the longest gaps in the history of this blog even when I have been travelling.

The almost final election results in the New Zealand election confirm Winston Peters and New Zealand First as king-makers.  Either National or Labour/Greens in combination could form government with New Zealand First support. Australians would find this position unstable given the apparent belief in this country that stable government requires one party to have a clear majority. Even here that's a bit silly since the Liberal Party generally can't rule without National Party support.

In The New Zealand case, some form of coalition or power sharing is the norm. This can create instability, but New Zealand Government has been noticeably more stable than the Australian equivalents in recent years. Wayne Mapp has an interesting piece on the coalition process in the New Zealand Herald.

 Looking back, the last full post I did on the New Zealand elections was in 2008, Sunday Essay - New Zealand elections 2008.

There were several interesting features about that election. The first was the then electoral decimation of New Zealand First. Now Mr Peters is back with a vengeance. The second was the success of the Mäori Party in winning all the Mäori seats. This election saw Labour take all those seats. The third was the commentary that the election had seen the collapse of the minor parties with the primary exception of ACT New Zealand and the Greens. Exactly the same comments have been made this time,

In 2008, seven parties got at least one seat, this time it's down to five, with ACT just hanging on to one electoral seat. Labour and National remain as the lead choices for primary governing party. The Greens are unable to win electoral seats, but retain enough broad support to just hold their position in the mixed proportional system. I say just hold because their electoral support in 2017 seems no different from 2008. I haven't checked all the results since. Then there is scope for another populist party.

Interestingly, only the main parties now seem able to win electoral seats with the one ACT exception. The others depend upon their capacity to attract a national vote at 5% or above, the minimum necessary to get list candidates into Parliament without an electorate seat.

This creates very different dynamics to Australia in that the strategic aim is to get that 5%. There is less point in maximising your electorate vote if it comes at the cost of a lower national vote.        


Winton Bates said...

Yes Jim, a different dynamic. In NZ and Germany the people vote but people like Winston Peters decide who wil form the government. In Australia the people vote and usually determine who will form government, but people like Winston Peters determine what legislation will be passed. In both cases the political power of the minority has a dominant role.

Jim Belshaw said...

A question, if I may, Winton. Do you regard the political power of minority as a bad thing?

Anonymous said...

There is less point in maximising your electorate vote if it comes at the cost of a lower national vote.

The mathematics of this sentence eludes me :)


Winton Bates said...

Jim, I am opposed to political systems that give minoirity interests disproportionate influence.

Jim Belshaw said...

The maths is fairly simple, I think, kvd. Assume that the mix of views in an electorate is exactly the same as that nationally. Assume that around 10% of voters at electoral and national level strongly support a particular position, while others oppose it. If you campaign in favour of the minority position, you reduce your chances of winning an electorate but increase your chances of capturing the national vote that does support that position.

Electorates are not in practice uniform. In a straight electorate based system, you gain power by maximisng the number of electorates that you can win, so you have to do some tailoring of policies and messages to each electorate. In a straight proportional system, and depending on your precise aims, you may aim for a broad vote but are more likely to focus on specific interests or issues that give you the best chance of ensuring your immediate presence in a broader electorate. In a mixed system, you have trade-offs between what is needed in a particular seat and what will achieve the minimum vote you want nationally.

The same challenge does arise in electorate based systems, but there you must win specific seats. You don't have the option of maximising the issues vote in quite the same way.

Jim Belshaw said...

I thought that was what you meant, Winton, but it's a bit of a slippery slope. What is disproportionate influence? And what is meant by interests?