The rise and rise of the right in New Zealand?

23 Sep 2014

Or is it more a case of the declining left? Jennifer Curtin looks at the evidence from Saturday's poll

The National government’s triumphant win on Saturday, and Labour’s corresponding loss, has broken at least three records, and the pundits are still counting. First, National has won sufficient seats to govern in its own right, a rare event in any proportional representation system, and a first in New Zealand’s comparatively short history of mixed-member proportional voting, or MMP. Even Germany, where MMP has been a feature since 1949, has only once experienced a majority government (in 1957). Interestingly, the result in New Zealand was achieved by a party that just three years ago held a government-initiated referendum on whether New Zealand should keep MMP or return to first past the post. Some of National’s most ardent supporters actively campaigned for what they called a “Vote for Change.” There was no vote for change, but clearly National needn’t have bothered.

The second record involves National’s winning margin of 48 per cent of the vote, which was larger than their vote share in both 2008 and 2011. This is the first time that a third-term government has increased its margin in almost ninety years, and the increase is underpinned partly by the significant inroads National has made in the Auckland and Christchurch city electorates that used to be Labour’s heartland.

Third, Labour’s vote share of 24.4 per cent is its worst result since 1922. Even when Helen Clark was defeated after three terms in office, Labour’s party vote was 10 percentage points higher than it was on Saturday.

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Photo: chrisjtse/Flickr

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