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Posts tagged ‘election 2011’

If there was no threshold

If the five per cent threshold didn’t apply, the Conservative Party and the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party would have polled high enough to gain seats:

% Party





National Party
Labour Party
Green Party
NZ First Party
Conservative Party
Maori Party

ACT New Zealand
United Future
Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party
Other parties

* The Maori Party got 2 seats but won 3 electorates, so they keep their third electorate as an overhang seat
† There are actually 70 electorates, but Christchurch Central is currently tied before special votes, so for this count we’re just pretending it doesn’t exist.  It’s tied between National and Labour, so it doesn’t actually affect the total number of seats.

Under the Sainte-Laguë method with the threshold, National had the 117th, 118th and 120th seats, and Labour had the 119th seat.  Those last four seats would be lost.  The Conservatives, at 2.76%—higher than the Maori and ACT Parties combined—polled high enough to get the 18th seat in the allocations, as well as the 56th and 91st.  The ALCP had a close shave polling at 0.48% and picking up seat number 104 with 1,185 votes to spare (above the new 120th quotient, 8,331).‡

List candidates who would have made it List candidates who wouldn’t have made it
Colin Craig (Conservatives)—18th seat
Kathy Sheldrake (Conservatives)—56th seat
Larry Baldock (Conservatives)—91st seat
Michael Appleby (ALCP)—104th seat
Aaron Gilmore (National)—120th seat
Raymond Huo or Rajen Prasad (Labour)§—119th seat
Cam Calder (National)—118th seat
Jackie Blue (National)—117th seat

‡ In a 120-seat Parliament with no threshold, you generally need roughly 0.42% to get one seat.  The way I think of it is that you need more than half of 1/120th of the total votes, which works out to 0.42%.
§ If Brendon Burns wins Christchurch Central, he displaces Mr Huo out of Parliament and Mr Prasad into the last list position, so it would be Mr Prasad.  If Mr Burns loses, it would be Mr Huo.

This would obviously have seen the National-ACT-United Future combination fall short of a majority at 59 seats.  But there’s a solid chance that National would have considered the Conservatives a suitable coalition partner.  (They don’t agree on everything, but then, no two parties do.)  That would then have seen the right-wing group on 62 seats, still enough to govern.

Of course, even if the Conservatives were excluded here, the Maori Party’s three seats would also have been enough to give National a majority.  But that would have made life a lot harder for National’s legislative programme (as ACT and the Maori Party don’t always vote together).

Labour would have had a much, much harder time stitching up a majority, given that they would need NZ First (who said they won’t work with anyone), Mana (who Labour said they won’t touch) and ALCP (who knows?), and even with all of them (plus the Greens and Maori Party) they’d still fall one seat short.

So, no change in government and no radical change in its form, unless you count the entry of the Conservatives into a centre-right government as a big change.  (That said, at 2.76% they probably deserve those three seats.)

As for the ALCP getting into Parliament, it might scare a few people but the ALCP’s done okay before: in 1996, they got 1.66% of the party vote.  Nonetheless, 0.48% can seem like a short mandate to get 1/121st of the seats in Parliament.  If we used the modified Sainte-Laguë method, where the first divisor is changed from 1 to 1.4 but all subsequent divisors are the same (3, 5, 7, …) (as is used in Norway and Sweden) then that seat would have gone to National instead.

I used to do this exercise for fun (well, once, in 2008). It matters a bit more to me now because I’ve come to support abolishing the threshold altogether.  It matters even more with the review of MMP that will be coming up if MMP (as predicted) wins the referendum.  The change to this election result would have been relatively insignificant and I don’t like either of the parties that didn’t make it, but it makes little sense to me that a party receiving four times the vote of a party that gets one seat, should get no representation in Parliament at all.


What it would take to steal a seat in the special votes

Update: I’ve uploaded the spreadsheet I used to make these calculations—a link is at the bottom of the post.

While the two million ordinary votes have been counted, there are still around 220,000 special votes left. We won’t know the effects of these votes until final results are released on 10 December. In the past, they’ve changed the provisional results: last election, they saw the Greens take a seat from National. What would it take for that to happen again in 2011?


  • Greens need a 2.23-point swing on National in the special votes (alone) to take a seat from them.
  • Greens need a 2.27-point swing on Labour (in the special votes alone) to take a seat from them.
  • To gain two more seats, the Greens would need to almost double their vote in the specials (i.e. get 20.23%).
  • NZ First is closest to picking up another seat. They only need a 0.43-point swing on National, or a 0.54-point swing on Labour (though the latter is more complicated).
  • It’s impossible for NZ First to lose a seat.
  • National would take a seat off Labour with a 3.73-point swing. Labour would do the same to National with a 4.5-point swing. Both situations require NZ First to lose a little as well.
  • Maori, ACT, Mana and United Future would need to quintuple, double, triple and decuple their votes in the specials respectively, so their seat counts won’t be budging.

Explanation of model

This analysis works as follows. As a starting point, we assume that special votes follow the same proportions as ordinary votes. We then transfer votes from a “losing party” to a “gaining party”. When this happens, their quotients (under the Sainte-Laguë method, see Elections NZ, Wikipedia) fall and rise respectively. The idea is to find the point where the last quotients of the parties gaining and losing seats are equal. This is the minimum vote transfer needed to steal the seat.

When I talk about “losing”, “gaining” or “transferring” votes, I mean relative to the assumption that the special votes are in proportion to the ordinary votes. A “swing” means the difference in percentage points between the special votes (not the total votes) and the ordinary votes.

We try not to touch the votes of other parties. This means that this analysis is a bit simplistic but shows the absolute minimum vote gains necessary, like a best-case scenario. (You need fewer votes if you’re only stealing from one party.) In some cases, though, a vote transfer between two parties results in a seat being picked up by a third party, so we adjust that party’s votes accordingly too.

Greens to take a seat from National

Party Provisional result Special required Swing Total required Change
National 47.99% < 45.76% -2.23% < 47.77% -0.22%
Greens 10.62% > 12.84% +2.22% > 10.84% +0.22%

Given the Greens’ history with special votes, this is the most likely scenario. For the Greens to take a seat from National, they need to get 12.84% of the special votes. (That is, of the 220,720 special votes, 12.84% need to be cast for the Greens, all at National’s expense—a “vote transfer” of 4,863 votes or 2.23 percentage points.) This would take the Greens’ total party vote from 10.62% to 10.84%, enough to see Mojo Mathers (14th on Greens list) replace Aaron Gilmore (53rd on National list).

This will probably happen: the Green co-leaders think they will hit 11 per cent. Based on a comparison to the special vote effect of 2008, Graeme Edgeler on the Legal Beagle finds similarly. I think it’s a good bet that, even if they don’t hit 11 per cent, they’ll pick up enough to get seat number 14.

Because National was allocated the 120th seat (using the Sainte-Laguë method), it’s the easiest to steal seats from. It’s theoretically possible for the Greens to steal from Labour though.

Greens to take a seat from Labour

  Provisional result Special required Swing Total required Change
Labour 27.13% < 24.86% -2.27% < 26.91% -0.22%
Greens 10.62% > 12.89% +2.27% > 10.84% +0.22%

If the Greens take their extra votes from Labour rather than National, they can see Labour’s last quotient (8,967) slip past National’s (8,930) to be lost to the Greens at 8,893. In this case, they would need 12.89% of the special votes, or a transfer of 4,971 votes, slightly more than what they would need stealing from National. At time of writing, iPredict’s live parliament projection had this scenario happening.

The current deadlock in Christchurch Central means that the exiting Labour MP could be either Raymond Huo (21st on list) or Rajen Prasad (20th), depending on whether Brendon Burns wins.

Note that if the Greens pull that same number of votes (just under 5,000) from both National and Labour, but split between them, they would not gain an extra seat. This is because National’s and Labour’s last quotients would both go down, but neither by as much—so the increase in the Greens’ last quotient won’t meet either. It works best for the Greens if their extra support in specials comes “from” a single major party.

It’s not possible for the Greens to steal from any other party: that would require the losing party to get a negative number of special votes.

Greens to take two extra seats from National or Labour

Since this would get James Shaw (15th on Greens list) into Parliament, I feel compelled to include this. The easiest way for the Greens to gain two seats is to take one from each of National (who got the 120th seat) and Labour (who got the 119th seat):

  Provisional result Special required Swing Total required Change
National 47.99% < 42.73% -5.26% < 47.47% -0.52%
Labour 27.13% < 23.03% -4.10% < 26.73% -0.40%
Greens 10.62% > 20.23% +9.61% > 11.57% +0.95%
NZ First 6.81% < 6.51% -0.27% < 6.78% -0.03%

This would also require NZ First to lose a little to prevent them getting one of the vacated seats first. Unfortunately, though, this situation does require the Greens to almost double their party vote (10.62% to 20.23%) in the specials, which for supporters of Mr Shaw is rather wishful thinking.

The Greens could also gain two seats off National or two off Labour with just a bit more (20.97% or 21.02% respectively).

New Zealand First to take a seat from National

  Provisional result Special required Swing Total required Change
National 47.99% < 47.56% -0.43% < 47.94% -0.05%
NZ First 6.81% > 7.23% +0.42% > 6.85% +0.04%

It’s actually easier for NZ First to take a seat from National than it is for the Greens to. That’s because NZ First, in the provisional results, is “next in line” for a seat: its next quotient of 8,867 is the highest of the non-qualifying quotients. So it just needs to catch up to National’s last quotient of 8,930, which it can do with a 0.43-point swing.

This isn’t likely to happen. NZ First is more likely to suffer from the special votes than pull 7.23% of them. But it’s not a foregone conclusion.

New Zealand First to take a seat from Labour

  Provisional result Special required Swing Total required Change
National 47.99% > 48.37% +0.38% > 48.02% +0.03%
Labour 27.13% < 26.20% -0.93% < 27.04% -0.09%
NZ First 6.81% > 7.35% +0.54% > 6.86% +0.05%

For this to happen, both National and NZ First have to gain votes at the expense of Labour. This is because when we transfer votes from Labour to NZ First, their quotients (originally 8,967 and 8,867) meet at 8,947, which is higher than National’s 8,930. Then NZ First wins the seat off Labour, who in turn wins it back off National—hence the need for National to gain votes too. The number of votes switching hands is still just 2,025, less than what the Greens need. But for NZ First it probably won’t happen.

New Zealand First to lose a seat to anyone: NZ First’s Asenati Taylor (8th on list) is safe. NZ First’s eighth seat sits at a quotient of 10,050, well ahead of the 120th quotient of 8,930. For them to lose a seat they would effectively need to get less than zero special votes. Sorry to disappoint you.

National to take from Labour or Labour to take from National: For either of these to happen, NZ First would need to lose 299 votes to the gaining party to stop it from getting the seat first. Including those votes, a 3.73-point swing towards National would do the trick for them, as would a 4.5-point swing towards Labour.

Maori Party to gain a third seat: Note that this wouldn’t actually gain the Maori Party a seat—they have three electorates but are only allocated two seats, so a third seat just means no overhang for Parliament. They would need at least 7.87% of the special votes to take the 120th seat from National and prevent NZ First from getting there first. They weren’t far over the bar for two seats with ordinary votes (1.35%) so their next quotient is down on 5,966, well short of 8,930. It’s also impossible for the Maori Party to lose a seat, but only just.

The one-seat parties (ACT, Mana and United Future): The ACT Party would need to get 2.41%, the Mana Party 3.10% and United Future 6.54% to benefit from special votes. Since this is doubling, tripling and decupling their votes respectively, it’s fair to say these parties won’t be affected by special votes. They can’t lose their party vote seat allocation (to create an overhang) either, even if they get zero special votes.

Update: The spreadsheet I did to figure out these “minimum vote transfers” can be found here (XLSX format). It’s a little esoteric but hopefully it’s followable.
Update 2: It appears that that spreadsheet doesn’t work in Excel 2007 and earlier, so you need Excel 2010, because I used the FLOOR() function with negative numbers but positive significance.
Update 3: Uploaded new version, that spreadsheet should now work in Excel 2007 and earlier.

On the TVNZ Multi Party Leaders Debate

Blow-by-blow analyses are boring, but I noted down a few particular moments that I found harder to swallow.

Tariana Turia on the retirement age: “It should be 60 years of age for Maori, Pacific and the poor.”
Guyon Espiner: “So you’d have separate schemes depending on ethnicity?”
Turia: “No, I didn’t say that.  I said Maori, Pacific and the poor.”

Ms Turia appears to think there’s a genuine case for a different retirement age for Maori and Pacific people, and that’s fine.  But if the policy she advocates isn’t separate schemes depending on ethnicity, then she did a very poor job of explaining it.  A retirement scheme where two ethnicities retire at one age, and all other ethnicities can only retire at that same age if they are poor, is undoubtedly a scheme that depends on ethnicity.  At the point where politicians believe Maori do deserve different treatment—and I think there is a case to be made—I wish they would just say so, rather than beat around the bush pretending it’s sort of like the same rules for everyone but not really.

Winston Peters on Don Brash’s views on the minimum wage: “It’s economic nihilism.  You don’t see that [higher minimum wage leading to higher unemployment] happening in Scandinavia or Norway.”

Scandinavia is quite a bad example to pick to demonstrate this point, because none of Sweden, Norway and Finland have national minimum wages.  All of them require, by law, employers to pay wages according to national agreements negotiated by unions (even if not unionised)—a system quite different to the flat $15 minimum wage proposed by Labour and the other left-wing parties.  I don’t know what those agreements came to, but the fact that it’s flexible (negotiable) compared to a legislated absolute minimum would at least somewhat limit the comparison.

Peter Dunne on race relations and poverty: “The reality is that every child in New Zealand deserves the best chance in life.”

This is rather pedantic, and the slip was probably understandable in the heat of the moment.  But “that every child deserves the best chance” isn’t a “reality”, it’s a valued proposition.  That it’s almost universally held doesn’t make it “reality”—realities relate to on-the-ground facts, not what people deserve.

To his credit, he followed this up by criticising pretty much every other leader for focussing on “racism and rhetoric”, driving the more pragmatist “it’s how we deal with the statistics” that moderates tend to favour.

Don Brash on an emissions trading scheme: “But most of the world isn’t doing it.  … Most of the carbon dioxide emitted by animals comes from eating grass.  Where does the grass get the carbon from?  From the atmosphere.  It’s a zero-sum game.”

Dr Norman cracked up laughing upon hearing this, and rightly so.  It’s not carbon dioxide from animals that we’re largely worried about; it’s methane.  A fact that’s rather inconvenient for Dr Brash’s notion of how greenhouse gases work.  Not being a biologist or ecologist, I’m reluctant to attempt to detail what is quite a complex system, but a factor that Dr Brash might have forgotten to mention is that methane’s global warming potential is quite a bit greater than carbon dioxide’s.

Guyon Espiner (moderator) to Don Brash, on the John Key-John Banks tea party: “You don’t care what your leader said about—?”

LOL.  Classic.

Hone Harawira: “MMP stands for more Maoris in Parliament.”
Don Brash, if we abolish the Maori seats: “Maori would vote for Maori in the general constituencies.”
Russell Norman: “That’s why MMP is such a great system; it delivers that diversity.  If all of those Maori were on the general roll, they wouldn’t necessarily have a Maori person to vote for… their vote is still worth the same.”

Being a voting systems geek, I find these statements particularly disturbing.  MMP has nothing to do with the Maori seats.  You can run Maori seats with any system (or not), and you can have MMP without Maori seats.

Under MMP, in fact, there is a very easy argument for why Maori seats aren’t necessary: proportionality allows the diversity that people want to be reflected in parliament, so if Maori desire specific Maori representatives they can easily vote them in on the party vote without having to win a majority in any single electorate.  I’m amazed that Dr Brash missed this argument.  The one he gave is unconvincing. It’s unlikely that any candidate would win a majority in a general electorate on a platform based on representing Maori.

A step further, it’s the existence of the Maori seats that make Dr Norman’s comments inaccurate.  MMP is a great system because it can deliver diversity without the Maori seats.  Under the status quo, Maori electors can and do vote strategically.  Because Maori Party support is concentrated in the Maori electorates, overhang seats (and hence disproportionality) are a given—so they’re free to give their party vote to a second party without sacrificing the Maori Party.  It is a similar (but slightly different) power to that which Epsom voters have, and it’s certainly not the same as everyone else in the country.

To be fair, empirically, it is true that more Maori have entered Parliament since MMP was introduced, so Mr Harawira is half-right.  But that misses the point of MMP.  The diversity that MMP brings is the spectrum of political views.  It offers no such guarantee of ethnic representation, except insofar as parties put such candidates in winnable list positions, or insofar as parties represent ethnicities like in Malaysia.

Hone Harawira: “We can’t go into coalition with parties like National and Act, who build their whole philosophy about kicking the poor, taxing the poor, to feed the rich.”

Mr Harawira spent much time tonight on rhetoric about the evilness of the rich, which is a standard tactic of far-left parties so probably understandable.  My general observations are that the far-right often genuinely believe (erroneously or otherwise) that their policies help the poor better, though.  I often wish the far-left would engage with the far-right more directly on this rather than accusing them of not caring.

Picking winners
Mr Dunne always came across as the sensible one. Just like he always does. Unfortunately, being sensible rarely gains traction in politics.  Mr Peters also presented well, just as he always does (policy aside), though from the orator that Mr Peters is I suppose I expected better.

The real stand-out in the debate for me was Dr Norman.  I should hasten to add here that I have never been a Greens fan and have normally found them totally bizarre.  But I noted down a few impressive lines and a majority of them are from Dr Norman.  He articulated policy with a pragmatism that you don’t traditionally find in the Green camp.  User charges for the commercial use of water, snatching the opportunity to throw in his green jobs plan to complement the minimum wage raise, “if you think that price influences behaviour then you need a price on pollution” and his brief comment on “political management” were all highlights for me.