DECISION 2017: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly (and 400,000 votes)


One of my favour vintage movies is a well known one called The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Aside from the great gun fights, the blasting of the chaps hat with the pistol, at the end of the movie above the three separate parts of the movie title a still of the “Good” the “Bad” and the “Ugly” characters in the film. The results of the 2017 New Zealand General election (from my perspective)fall nicely into those categories.

THE GOOD: After nine years of Labour being in the wilderness of the opposition benches, as a centre-left supporter it was a relief to see multiple additional electorates to the ones Labour already holds going shades of red. Electorates that had been solid blue at the last election were significantly lighter shades, such as Waimakariri Electorate. Others such as Christchurch Central changed colours from blue to red.

THE BAD: Much as they have frustrated me in the last few years, I was actually sorry to see the Maori Party be obliterated by the resurgent Labour Party. Te Ururoa Flavell and his co-leader Marama Fox had brought diversity to Parliament and a welcome indigenous voice. Other people will not be so sorry as they see the Maori Party as a racist entity because of who its constituents are. However the failure of them to become established in the general electorates and the mixed messages that Maori get from the mainstream parties, means we probably should not be surprised that an effort was made to form the party in the first place.

THE UGLY: This is a contest between the National Party presumption that they have won, and the loss of half of the Green caucus. The latter should not have been surprising though, as the New Zealand public – for better or worse – is more conservative than the left like to admit. Metiria Turei would have single handedly saved most of the Green M.P.’s who lost their jobs last night if she had said “Okay, I did this, but I have already paid the money back”. That would have opened and closed the case in one swoop. It would have garnered political interest as it did, but the opportunity to cause damage would have been significantly less.

It is the National Party assumption that they have somehow won the race when they have not, that is galling. Their 58 seats plus A.C.T.’s 1 seat is not enough. More galling it is, when you consider that National’s allies the Maori Party and United Future were obliterated. They might be the largest party in Parliament, but unless National can stitch up a deal with New Zealand First, that is the end of this Government (and A.C.T. is reduced to being a bystander since New Zealand First and A.C.T. cannot stand each other).

But there is a 400,000 vote problem in the calculations necessary for a coalition government. We do not yet know how the people who cast those 400,000 votes voted, and may not know for up to ten days. But 400,000 votes is a substantial number in New Zealand politics and means that claiming a set number of seats in the House of Representatives yet is:

  • Premature
  • Ignoring that the election is still in play – i.e. it ain’t over yet!

So, National and Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First can start talking about the ins and outs of coalition deals if they want. If I were them, I would wait a few more days to see how these 400,000 votes are going to play out because what the results might not be what they are expecting.

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