First reflections on the NZ election results

Posted: September 24, 2017 by Admin in Labour Party NZ, National Party NZ, New Zealand history, New Zealand politics

Below is an updated version of the article that initially went up straight after the election results of last night.  The updated version takes on board Craig H’s point (see comments) that the article got turnout wrong because it only looked at election night results and thus didn’t take into account special votes.  Thanks to Craig for pulling me up on this error – PD. 

by Phil Duncan

The frontstabbers have won yet again (National) and the backstabbers have lost yet again (Labour).  (For votes and seats see end of article.)

Labour so little inspires the working class, that the majority of workers opt for other alternatives. The combined number of workers who don’t vote and who vote National is, once again, significantly bigger than the number who vote Labour, despite the increasingly bizarre efforts of some lefists to maintain the fiction that Labour is some kind of workers’ party, deserving of being voted for.

This is the second time National has won four terms (the last time being the second National government, which held power from 1960-1972).

Interestingly, the most recent polls proved pretty accurate.

What has proved inaccurate, however, is so many of the pundits.

Leading up to election day, they told us that it was too close to call and/or that this yawn-fest was the most exciting election in living memory. But not only did National beat Labour hands down – it wasn’t a ‘too close to call’ result! – there appears to be little change in voter turnout as a percentage of those enrolled, although enrolments appear to be down a bit as a percentage of the voting age public

In 2014, there was an almost 78% turnout of registered voters. In 2017, the election night count gives a turnout of66.6%, but this doesn’t include specials.  The Electoral Commission expects that when these are counted the turnout as a percentage of registered voters will be up almost one percent to almost 79%.

But it is also useful to look at turnout as a percentage of the eligible voting age population in order to get a view of broader political trends.  The total voting age population which is eligible to enrol is about 3,570,000.  Total votes cast, including specials, is 2,563,688.  This makes the turnout of the eligible voting age population roughly 71.8% turnout.

All the stuff about a “youthquake” and Jacinda Ardern “energising” this, that and the other has proved to be rather overblown.

Labour cannibalised a chunk of the Green and NZ First vote; National held steady. More people than ever chose not to vote. And this applies to young people too. To their credit they were not “energised” by Labour’s social climbing, “youth-adjacent” show pony.

Ardern, for all the hype, proved unable to pull off what her Canadian and French youth-adjacent male show pony equivalents (Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron) had.

I know that most of my friends – political and non-political friends alike – didn’t vote. None of them were excited by what was on offer.

Perhaps the pundits need to widen their social circles.

And rethink the term ‘exciting’.

Former weather presenter and Dancing with the Stars winner Tamati Coffey captured Waiariki for Labour, meaning the Maori Party lost their two seats.  Labour now has the 7 Maori seats back, indicating that most Maori are simply not interested in an ethnic-based Maori party.  (In Te Tai Tokerau, Labour’s Kelvin Davis comfortably saw off the attempt by former MP Hone Harawira to win back the seat for the Mana Movement, despite Harawira being backed also by the Maori Party.)

An interesting feature was the continuance of the trend for National to do particularly well in terms of winning constituency seats.  For instance, while the party vote is the key vote, since it determines the final seat allocation, National won a greater proportion of the constituency seats than of the party vote.  It won 41 of the 71 constituency seats: that’s 58% of the constituency seats, compared to 46% of the party vote.  Labour only won 29 actual constituency seats.

Overall, the election reinforced the picture of NZ society and politics as being in the state of stasis pointed to by one of the first articles ever run on this blog (see here).

And what of “the left”?

Well, the Labour-loving elements will see the result as some kind of defeat for the left. And I guess, for them, it certainly is. It shows how far these folks are removed from where the NZ working class actually is. While most of the left is nostalgic about Labour, most workers simply do not share this sentiment.

But whereas National’s triumph may well be a defeat for most of the left, it is not a defeat for leftism per se. It simply shows how useless most of the left is in understanding political reality in Aotearoa in 2017 and how much we need a real anti-capitalist movement rather than the dumbed-down anti-Toryism that currently tries to pass itself off as ‘left politics’.

Will the soft-on-Labour left learn anything from the election? Probably not. Simple-minded anti-Toryism doesn’t lend itself easily to critical reflection, no matter how many times reality delivers its harsh verdict on the delusions.

Once again, the point is we need a new political movement – one of, for and by workers; one that is based on the independent class interests of workers and has no truck with the revolting middle class social climbers and capitalist managers of the Labour Party.


National: 46%, 58 seats

Labour: 35.8%, 45 seats

NZ First: 7.5%, 9 seats

Greens: 5.8%, 7 seats

TOP: (The Opportunities Party) 2.2%, 0 seats

Maori Party: 1.1%, 0 seats

ACT: 0.5%, 1 seat

  1. Craig H says:

    Turnout is pending special votes, which are likely to be another 8-10% or so based on past elections, so it might be a little early to claim this is the lowest turnout ever..

    • Admin says:

      Good point Craig. I might have gotten a bit carried away there and, yes, definitely confused election night result turnout with total turnout. It’s great to have readers notice this stuff.

      I see this morning that the Electoral Commission is saying the turnout as a % of registered voters is slightly up on 2014, maybe 0.9%.

      It still appears that voter registration is down, so it will be interesting to see what the turnout is as a % of the voting age public. But I’ll correct the article re election night turnout.


  2. badcop666 says:

    Cheers Phil. Good insights. Political thought in NZ is indeed in need of defibrillation.
    What is needed I wonder?

  3. Thomas CSS says:

    I think it’s been interesting to note from my not massively political friends the way in which the parties of the left are so firmly middle class that they don’t even have a constituency or orientation to people who consider them “our party”. We have the Green Party and the Labour Party who both frame questions of economic deprivation, injustice and so on under the guise of doing “right” by the downtrodden. It’s like a somewhat anemic noblesse oblige of yesteryear, but now its just middle class philanthropy. As such I know people who would be the traditional base of Labour Party voters – at least for a few decades in the post war consensus – people like Teachers, who basically see a vote for Labour as the “right thing to do to help the less fortunate”, but not something directly tied to their own self interest. Obviously lower strata of the working class are even less enthusiastic about Labour.

    A party of the working class would, instead, actually be something workers could feel was ‘theirs’ – not a kindly gentle heart offering them a hand out, but one that fights for their interests to remake society anew. None of the questions have changed for us, and very few of the answers have changed either. Our answer is socialism, and that has specific elements that we should openly support. In this sense, we can not be a mere ‘anti-capitalist’ force but actually have something like a vision and argument about a better world – a planned economy – the abolition of war – etcetera.

    The group I help run went with this closing statement for the electoral outcome:

    “As per the norm after every election, the task of bringing the working class to power and socialising the means of production, distribution, and exchange is completely off the map in terms of possibilities. Arguments can be had – and have been had, at length – about what pro-capitalism Party is a better one for socialists to try to continue our work under. But the task remains the same, largely the same as it has been for a century and a half. The goals of socialism are older and infinitely grander and more inspiring than the petty jockeying of Labour or National politicians – indeed it is older than both of their parties.

    For our small part we will continue to attempt to keep the history, ideas, and knowledge alive and spread it to any and all who have an interest in taking those lessons and applying them.”

  4. Jurriaan Bendien says:

    I have tried to check the NZ data that are available online.

    In the 2014 NZ general election, there were 3,391,100 eligible voters, of which 3,060,957 enrolled (90.2%) and 2,416,479 of enrolled voters actually voted (circa 78.9%). The voters who cast a vote were 71.2% of the adult population eligible to vote.

    In the 2017 NZ general election, there were 3,569,830 eligible voters, of which 3,252,259 enrolled (91.1%) and 2,563,740 are currently *estimated* to have voted (circa 78.8%). The voters who did cast a vote are 71.18% of the adult population eligible to vote.

    So, the number of people who did not vote, although they were enrolled to vote, has stayed steady at around 21%, or about one in five. In total, about 28.8% of the eligible voters, about a quarter of them, just do not vote, although in principle they could do so if they would register to vote.

    What has increased somewhat, is the number and proportion of people who enrolled to vote, and presumably they enrolled, because they were interested in the election, and intended to participate, or because the electoral registration system has been made easier for them, or both. That’s an extra two hundred thousand people or so on the electoral roll.

    It is true, that the total resident adult population in New Zealand is circa 3.7 million, i.e. more than the eligible population, but there are perhaps 185,000 adult residents who, for one legal reason or anoother, are not eligible to vote. For example, there were about 122,000 foreign students in NZ in 2016, and there are a considerable number of foreign nationals who are residents for a shorter or longer term.

    At time of writing, no data is available yet for overseas votes and late votes.

    Before the election, many people expected a very low turnout, because of cynicism and skepticism about the political process and about politicians. But it is likely that the turnout was higher than expected, because people had the impression that there was now a real possibility for a change of government.

  5. Admin says:

    I don’t know if ‘many’ people expected a low turnout; I think in the weeks leading up to the election the talk was much more about how “Jacinda” had galvanised a lot of people, especially young people, into voting and the expectation was that the turnout could well be higher than in 2014. But it hardly went up at all. National did a bit better than expected and Labour improved at the expense of the Greens and NZ First, while still getting a bit less than the final polls predicted. Overall, however, the polls in the final week proved pretty accurate.


  6. Jurriaan Bendien says:

    You altered your original webtext after I posted my comment, so I will leave it at that.

  7. Phil says:

    My mistake was actually first noted by Craig H on facebook and also by Tim Bowron. Then by you. It’s good to get picked up when making these kinds of mistakes – actually it was a rookie error I made, so a bit embarrassing! But these things happen – especially in the early hours of the morning.

    In just the few minutes I watched the TV3 coverage, Duncan Garner banged on at least twice – so how many times did he do it altogether that night? – about an “historic fourth term National government”, when the second National Party government was a four term government (1960-72). So I guess I shouldn’t feel too bad about forgetting about special votes!

  8. Alan Scott says:

    68 years have passed since 1949. Conservative National governments have held the reins of power for 47 of those, and pale pinkish-blue pseudo-Labour governments, the remaining 21.

  9. Phil F says:

    And the government that workers were best off under was the 1960-72 National Party government.