Minor Parties emerge as major winners in General Election 2023

 

Marc Daalder
Wellington, November 4, 2023

The 2023 election is the story of a collapse for Labour but also underperformance for National, with three minor parties earning their best-ever Party vote results.

The final election results show National slipping back from the election night when it looked like it might be able to govern with the Act Party alone.

With all the special votes now tallied up, National is down two seats, the Green Party is up one and Te Pāti Māori is up two. That sets up a Parliament of 122 seats, rising to 123 when the Port Waikato by-election is held on November 25.

Parties need 62 seats to form a government in this plus-sized Parliament and National and Act together have just 59. That means they will need New Zealand First to play ball if they want to sit on the Treasury benches.

Marc Daalder

Special Votes specialty

The change is because the special votes have once again proved to be more left-leaning than the rest of the country. These include overseas votes and votes cast by people outside of their electorate – usually students. While overseas votes are expected to have swung against Labour, this level of detail is not yet available. Nonetheless, Labour didn’t get much out of the specials.

On election night, National was at 39% of the vote, up from its disastrous 2020 result of 25.6%. Labour, in turn, was down from 50% to 26.9%.

With the specials now in the mix, National has fallen 0.9% and its coalition partners Act and New Zealand First have each slipped 0.4% as well. But Labour has not risen at all – it is still stuck at 26.9%. Instead, the Greens and Te Pāti Māori reaped the benefits, increasing their vote shares by 0.8% and 0.5% respectively.

The upcoming challenges

A closer look at the special votes shows how divergent they are from the preliminary results.

If the rest of the country voted as special voters do, New Zealand First would not have made it into Parliament at all and would have earned less of the vote than Te Pāti Māori.

The Greens would be nearing 15%, bringing in 20 MPs, while National and Act would each have dropped significantly. Labour would be stubbornly stuck on 26.9 again but would pick up a seat with the disappearance of NZ First.

Such a Parliament, assuming all the electorates broke the same way as they did in the final results, would have seen Labour able to govern with the help of the Greens and Te Pāti Māori, sharing 63 seats between them to National and Act’s 57 (plus a likely extra in the Port Waikato by-election).

There is another important trend highlighted by the specials as well: The abandonment of the major parties. National and Labour collectively garnered just 61.5% of the special votes, with nearly four in 10 going to minor parties.

That would have been the lowest result for the two major parties under MMP. The final results align with this trend, with the two Chrises earning just 65% of the vote. One in every three voters went with a minor Party, the highest rate in more than two decades and the third highest rate since the first MMP election in 1996.

The Choice of the People

This was not just a ‘wasted’ vote either. Just 5.6% of the Party vote went to Parties which did not make it into Parliament, down from 7.9% in 2020 and up slightly from 4.6% in 2017.

Instead, three of the four minor Parties, the Greens, Act and Te Pāti Maori, saw their best-ever results in the Party vote.

The Greens’ 11.6% and 15 MPs beat a previous record of 11.1% and 14 MPs in 2011.

Their caucus of 15 is now the second largest minor Party caucus in modern history, behind only New Zealand First’s 17 MPs in 1996.

Act’s 8.6% and 11 MPs surpass the record it achieved at the last election, of 7.9% and 10 MPs.

Finally, Te Pāti Māori’s 3.1% and 6 MPs outrank its 2008 high of 2.4% and five MPs.

New Zealand First did not come close to its 1996 record of 13.35% of the vote and 17 MPs but did manage for the second time to return to Parliament after being kicked out at the prior election.

It is the only Party to have achieved this feat twice – Te Pāti Māori did so once, in 2020.

Marc Daalder is a Senior Political Reporter at Newsroom based in Wellington. He covers Climate Change, Health, Energy and Violent Extremism. The above article, which appeared on the website of Newsroom on November 4, 2023 has been reproduced under a Special Agreement.

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