New Zealand Political Mix

With New Zealand gearing up for one of its triennial parliamentary elections later this year, there is more interest than usual in the polls. These are less frequent than in the UK.. The latest one shows this:

National  46% Conservatives
NZ First  11% UKIP
Labour  30% Labour
Greens  11% Lib. Dem.
Other ( Mana /   Maori / ACT ) 2%

The right hand column above shows the very, very rough read-across from English politics. It is all eerily familiar.

What is different is the electoral system, which is Mixed-Member Proportional (MMP). That is to say there are constituencies with a first past the post system, and there is a list system to ensure proportionality in the final result. The slight oddity is that it is possible for a party or parties to “over-achieve” in the constituency section in a way that cannot be rebalanced by the list section. This results in the normal 120 seat parliament having extra seats. So, in 2008 the Maori party won 5 seats in the constituency section, rather than the 3 they were entitled to by their share of the vote. So that parliament ended up with 122 members.

As you can see National is closest to a majority, and they would need to do something pretty remarkable to take over 50% of the vote. In fact no party has had an overall majority for more than 20 years. The current government is a minority National administration.

Is that good or bad? Well NZ currently has a 0.5% (and rising)budget surplus, an unemployment rate around 5% (and falling), and national debt around 30% of GDP (and falling). Government spending is 35% of GDP (and falling). Comparable figures for the UK are; -5% ie budget deficit (and falling slowly), 5% (and static), 85% (and static), and 43% (and static). Optimists might point out that official projections are a tad more positive for the UK than my comments in brackets. So that is all pretty positive for NZ – and it is a cracking place to live, outside Auckland at least. Auckland does suffer in a small way from the usual problems of large cities; house prices, commuting, public transport, cost of living.

Is New Zealand’s relative success helped or hindered by its political system? Well residents seem pretty happy, judging by the way they vote. There is not the same anti-establishment groundswell in NZ that gave us Brexit and Trump. My read across from NZ First to UKIP may have given NZ First a more rebellious shine that they have yet earned. But they are tentatively exploring anti-establishment territory. So maybe . . .