Political hangover begins to hit New Zealanders

One minor Party holds the key to the next Cabinet

Venkat Raman

Auckland, September 24, 2017

Current Position of Political Parties in the 52nd Parliament which must be convened by within six weeks after the return of the Writ or November 23, 2017.

National Party: 58 Seats (46%); Labour Party: 45 Seats (35.8%); New Zealand First Party: 9 Seats (7.5%); Green Party (5.9%): 7 Seats; ACT Party: 1 Seat (0.5%)

New Zealanders delivered the most frustrating verdict on their politicians as the results of the general elections came in last night.

National Party

National Party, which hoped to make its magic of ‘Delivering for New Zealanders,’ took 46% of the total votes counted thus far, making it the single largest Party in Parliament, three seats shy of majority to govern. With 58 seats in its kitty, the Party still needs three more to from a government. It is assured of one seat that it bequeathed to ACT Party (such support for one seat in the Epsom Constituency has been a part of its election strategy since 2008) but still insufficient to come into the Fourth Term.

Labour Party

Labour Party showed remarkable rebound, claiming 35.8% of the votes counted but its 45 seats would still keep it away from the Treasury benches. Jacinda Ardern has proved to be rejuvenator of her Party, and campaigned vigorously to excite her fellow MPs, electoral and List candidates and encourage people to vote. There were at least three opinion polls that placed Labour ahead of National, sending shockwaves across the Bill English camp. But just a week before elections, fortunes turned in favour of National.

Green Party

The Green Party, which suffered its worst performance, has been able to obtain just 5.9% of the votes, translating to seven seats. But it is in no position to influence the formation of the next government, although it is very keen to be in the Treasury benches.

New Zealand First Party

New Zealand First Party is in a unique position to decide whether National or Labour would govern over the next three years, with at least two of its MPs firmly obtaining at least two ministerial portfolios, albeit outside the Cabinet, as was the practice in the past.

However, Party Leader Winston Peters, who won in the Northland Constituency in the By-Election held on March 2, 2015, failed last night as the provisional results were announced. He received 12,394 votes, while his National Party opponent received 13 686 votes.

Nonetheless, as the Leader of the third largest Party as on date, he is in the position to decide who should be in the next government.

Hard Bargains ahead

National Party supporters and some political commentators have said that the Party has the right to rule since it has won 58 seats- more importantly, 46% of New Zealanders have voted for the Party. This, according to them, is the ‘Right of Legitimacy,’ since technically, National can govern alone with 59 seats (with ACT’s one seat) in Parliament.

However, in a democracy, a Party must demonstrate its ability with actual numbers. National must therefore get either National First or the Green Party as its coalition partner to form the next government.

Ideological Dilemma

The current situation has created an ideological dilemma for National, for, the Party has since long locked horns with New Zealand First, more pointedly with its Leader Winston Peters. Both Sir John Key, former National Party Leader and Prime Minister and Bill English the incumbent, have announced in the past that they ‘would never work with Winston.’

The recent saga of accusations of ‘leaked information over his Superannuation overpayments’ have further damaged the relationship between the two.

But politics is a game of expediency and it is extremely rare that politicians remember their vows of the past.

But the political scene in New Zealand is not yet clear.

The Trilogy Theory

Jacinda Ardern is down but not out. She congratulated Bill English on the splendid performance of his National Party but did not concede defeat. “MMP would decide the next government and I cannot predict what other Leaders will decide,” she said.

Labour and Greens enthusiasts would like to believe that if New Zealand First would come to their camp, the three Parties can form a coalition government as they would have the required number of seats – 61 as of now – the exact number required.

But there are several imponderables in this equation. New Zealand First may be able to work with Labour on important areas such as foreign ownership of land and property, housing and immigration (both parties share workable ideologies) but there are several other areas (taxation is one of them) in which there would be discord.

On the equation with the Greens, Mr Peters and his Party have serious differences.

And yet, three-party coalitions have worked in the past, in fact, in the Helen Clark government (which had the old Alliance Party, New Zealand First and UnitedFuture) and the John Key and Bill English governments (with ACT and UnitedFuture). There have been differences among these coalition partners but the respective governments were no threat, and they ran their full tenure.

Indian MPs

Once again, our analysis has proved to be right in the case of electoral prospects of candidates of Indian origin. New Zealanders are not yet ready to elect them and their presence in Parliament can be only through the List.

Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, who has been on National List since 2008 polled 3969 votes compared to 14,004 votes that went to Labour candidate, sitting MP Jenny Salesa. In general election 2014, their final tally was respectively 4422 votes and 17,676 votes.

Dr Parmjeet Parmar, another National Candidate, contesting from Mr Roskill, received 10,168 votes, while Labour’s Michael Wood received 15,843 votes.

In the 2014 general election, at which she contested for the first time in Mt Roskill, she obtained 10,546 votes, compared to 18,637 votes won by Labour Candidate Phil Goff.

However, in the by-election (caused by the resignation of Mr Goff on his election as Mayor of Auckland) held on December 3, 2015, she won 4771 votes, compared to Labour Party candidate Michael Wood, who received 11,623 Votes. There are no Party votes in a by-election.

Priyanca Radhakrishnan, who stood for the first time as a Labour candidate in Maungakiekie, lost to National Candidate Denise Lee, polling 12,338 Votes. Ms Lee received 12,338 votes. Although she has not been successful at the electorate, Priyanca will be a Member of Parliament as she is well placed on the Labour Party List (11).

In 2014, Carol Beaumont of Labour had poled 13784 Votes, compared to Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, who won 16,132 Votes.

Bala (Venu) Beeram campaigned hard as National Party candidate in Kelston where his formidable opponent was Carmen Sepuloni of Labour Party. Bala ran a spirited campaign, visiting every household several times with more than 100 volunteers and supporters and yet success eluded him. He polled 7850 Votes, while Carmel retained the seat with 13,199 votes.

Chris Penk, who was National’s candidate in Kelston in general election 2014, took 9724 votes, while Carmen received 15,091 votes. His Party nominated him to run in the Helensville electorate vacated by Sir John Key. There were no surprises. He took 18,417 votes, unmatched by Labour’s Kurt Taogaga, with 5619 votes.

Bala is unlikely to make it to Parliament this time for his ranking on National List (57) is not favourable, given the Party’s Listing system.

The Party Vote scenario in the three constituencies showed fluctuations with National polling more Party Votes in Mt Roskill (a Labour Seat) and Labour polling more Party Votes in Maungakiekie (a National Seat)

Manukau East:

2017: Labour: 13,622; National: 4967

2014: Labour: 16,925; National: 5392

Mt Roskill

2017: Labour: 12,058; National: 12,669

2014: Labour: 12,086; National: 14,275

Maungakiekie:

2017: Labour: 11,873; National: 11,590

2014: Labour: 12199; National: 14,394

Kelston:

2017: Labour: 12,020; National: 8477

2014: Labour: 12,934; National: 9924

General Election 2017 is over but battle lines are still drawn. The outcome will be known over the next week or so. We will provide continue to keep you updated.

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Photo Caption: Which way would Winston Peters move- Bill English or Jacinda Ardern (Picture Courtesy: Radio New Zealand)

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