John Key and the National Party received a commanding result in last Saturday’s election in New Zealand, obtaining its best election result in 60 years with 48 percent of the vote. Now with 60 seats in Parliament, National seeks to form a government with several minor parties to increase its legislative power. Support for Labour declined to 27 percent of the party vote, landing them an estimated 34 MPs. In addition to the strong “mandate” given to John Key and National, the lead story out of NZ is the results for minor parties and the voter approval of MMP at the referendum.
With a diverse Parliament, coalitions are being built and parties are strengthening their positions. After being out of government for the past three years, New Zealand First made a surprising comeback, gaining an estimated 6.8 percent of the party vote and 8 MPs. The ACT Party was touted to surge with Don Brash as its new leader; however following the election of just one MP and failing to meet the party vote threshold, Brash resigned in shame. The Green Party obtained an estimated 10.6 percent of the party vote, giving them 13 MPs; after special votes are counted, the Greens are likely to have 14 total MPs, 5 more than the previous election.*
United Future’s Peter Dunne retained his party’s sole seat; as with the ACT Party, the loner MPs have been sought after by National for a coalition to add to its majority. The Maori Party won 3 reserved seats, and will also be courted by National.
The sale of state-owned assets has been a contentious issue, and most minor parties are against the idea except ACT, National’s closest partner. It will be the issue to look out for over the next three years, as Parliament is split almost in half (61-60) for or against selling public assets. The New Zealand Herald website has a useful map of Parliamentary seats.
Voter turnout lowest percentage in 120 years
Had more Kiwis turned out to vote, the election results might not have been so stark. According to estimates, one million eligible New Zealanders did not make it to the polls for this election.
“Turnout dropped by just over 90,000, from 79.5 percent of those on the rolls in 2008 to 73.8 percent. Overseas votes included in this total plunged from an estimated 32,000 at the last election to 19,527.”*
Election watchers credit this drop in voter turnout to two primary factors. First, youth voters continue to be apathetic and do not comprehend how the election affects their lives. Second, early polls showed an easy victory for National and drop in support for Labour, keeping supporters of both parties at home. Additionally, Labour’s lost votes are likely due to increased support for the Greens and New Zealand First. Given that the Greens typically poll better overseas, the drop in overseas voting may have hurt their chances to have an even stronger presence.