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The results are in. Not the final, final results. The super-dooper recounted and not-subject-to-further-legal-challenge results. But as final as results are going to be for a bit longer. And on the numbers released by the Electoral Commission yesterday, I think we can reasonably dub the 2023 General Election the ABL-Vote.
ABL. Anyone. But. Labour.
The left has gone more left. The right has gone more right. Winston Peters and New Zealand First have hoovered up whatever remains, and we wait to see what kind of deal might be struck between the governing parties.
These are the things that stand out to me:
1) Labour’s vote has almost halved on the result three years ago. Maybe it’s the polling or just the general widespread sense of dissatisfaction with the government, but I still think we haven’t paused and considered the scale of that reversal, enough. They received 50% of the party vote in 2020. I get it. It was an extraordinary result for an extraordinary political moment. But in just three years they’ve shed almost half of that support Almost a quarter of all New Zealand voters have left them. And as if that weren’t painful enough for the party’s members, what is there to show for that historic majority government?
2) With just over 38% of the vote, by National’s traditional standards, this is not an impressive election result. It was enough. And it only needed to be enough. But if you take out the 2020 drubbing, this year’s result was the lowest party vote result for National for more than 20 years. But for 2020, the last time they were lower than 39% was the 2002 election.
3) Both the Greens and Te Pāti Māori are celebrating their largest-ever caucuses. A big part of their success is surely the ABL factor. Anyone but Labour. But I also think they ran the two best campaigns of the election. The Greens were super-disciplined. They put out well-constructed policies early in the campaign, soaking up a lot of political discourse before the other parties switched into campaign mode. Te Pāti Māori understood better than any other party except for maybe New Zealand first, how to mobilise their supporters.
4) I think ACT will be a bit disappointed by their final numbers. Of course, the result is great by the party’s traditional standards and winning the Tamaki electorate was a huge boon symbolically, but compared to where they were polling a few months ago, it’s a notable drop.
5) New Zealand First’s result marks a masterful sprint to the electoral finish line for our most experienced and seasoned politician. Winston Peters saw the space opened up by National’s dithering and seized it. The party didn’t confirm its policy platform until well after voting had already opened but their supporters don’t care. New Zealand First might have been largely absent from politicial discourse for most of this parliamentary term, but their result goes to show how important timing and momentum are in a political campaign.
So what happens now? Negotiations will be fascinating. My impression is that David Seymour will be intensely focused on achieving policy concessions. I suspect New Zealand First will be less interested in big, meaty, high-workload Cabinet portfolios, but I could be wrong.
I think the triumphant reaction from the Greens, while understandable at one level, shows they’re completely focused on themselves and are deluded about the constraints of opposition. No one seems to note that a record election result for the party isn’t actually worth that much if you’re languishing in opposition, and the governing parties are pledging to restart oil and gas exploration, delay emissions pricing on farms, and even scrap the Zero Carbon Act.
I think Labour’s totally adrift. And I think the new Prime Minister has his work cut out. The ABL factor will give him a honeymoon glow for a bit, but this is still an incredibly tricky economic and political moment, and if this election has shown us anything it’s how quickly voter sentiment can change. Three’s a crowd and managing relationships between ACT and New Zealand First is potentially complex. Prime Minister Christopher Luxon and the next government will know they can only trade on being Anyone But Labour for so long.
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