These are the predictions for New Zealand Election 2020, taking place on 17 October. It was originally scheduled for 19 September, but was delayed due to COVID-19.
Three years ago, Jacinda Ardern was the focus of a great deal of media attention as the fresh face for the Labour Party. Centre-right National had been in power for about nine years and Labour wandered the political wilderness until her arrival. Despite “Jacindamania” in 2017, Labour did not win the most seats in the general election.
However, Bill English and National were denied an outright majority. This led to Ardern striking a deal with New Zealand First while the Greens supported the government on confidence and supply. Jacinda Ardern became New Zealand’s third female prime minister while the National Party took their place as a sizable opposition.
A lot has happened in New Zealand since Ardern took office just three years ago. For example, in 2019, a mass shooting at a Christchurch mosque made global headlines and led to sweeping gun legislation. Now, in 2020, the election will be fought in the midst of a pandemic.
How will voters in New Zealand appraise the job of the first-term Labour government in the face of numerous crises? Will New Zealand Election 2020 ultimately be a referendum of Ardern’s handling of the pandemic? Our predictions and analysis are below for the taking.
New Zealand Election 2020: Party Leaders
|Jacinda Ardern MP (Labour, Prime Minister)|
|Judith Collins MP (National, Leader of the Opposition)|
|Winston Peters MP (New Zealand First, Deputy PM)|
|Marama Davidson MP and James Shaw MP (Green)|
|David Seymour MP (ACT)|
New Zealand House of Representatives: Party Standings
These were the party standings in the NZ House of Representatives as of July 28, 2020:
|New Zealand First (9)|
New Zealand Election 2020 Results
Our Predictions: What We’re Feeling Good About
- Narrow Labour majority. It was becoming clear during the campaign that Jacinda Ardern and Labour were going to do the previously impossible: win a majority under the MMP system. Earlier on, there were some polls projecting Labour to go a lot higher than they did, but calling them at 62 with an actual result of 64, that’s not bad.
- The rise of ACT. They did not tie their best result ever, they set it with 10, just one off of our prediction. ACT must be feeling very pleased with how they have done in this election, with Labour being another obvious happy clan.
- The NZ First washout. Pretty easy to see it coming, however, as they polled nowhere near five percent.
Where We Missed
- National’s collapse. We thought 41 seats would be a bad result for them, but they ended up with just 35. Their vote share was down tremendously. This was a horrible election for them and much worse than anticipated.
- The Maori Party coming back. Their party faded out, and once they hit zero in the 2017 election, that looked like it for them. Not the case, as Rawiri Waititi won a surprise victory in Waiariki.
New Zealand Election 2020: Current Prediction
NZ Election Analysis, October 5
We are sticking with our call of a Labour majority, which would be the first for any party under MMP. Electionarium gave this election a few months to develop, but it is clear that Labour has an insurmountable lead. Jacinda Ardern’s party will finish first, but the question remains: majority or minority government?
The odds of Ardern remaining prime minister after the election are very high. Even if Labour ends up in the high 50s without squeaking out a majority, the Greens will have more than enough seats to help them put together a coalition government. National has had a rough few months, and together with Ardern’s high personal approval ratings, it is not surprising that they are in their current situation.
New Zealand First is still on course for an electoral collapse, with no prospects for an electorate victory and remaining well below five percent in the polls. ACT New Zealand, however, is on track to tie its best result ever. In the past few elections, they’ve been able to rely on Epsom to get them into Parliament, but this time, the party list vote seems to be registering as well. If they come in anywhere from six to eight percent as opinion polls suggest, they will drastically improve their parliamentary representation. However, it’s likely they will be in opposition or on the crossbenches with ACT’s ideological aversion to Labour.
NZ Election Analysis, July 30
It appears Labour is on course for a victory in September’s election, with a potential for an outright Labour majority. If it happened, it would be the first time for any party to win a majority since New Zealand adopted MMP in 1996. That in itself is telling as to how the opinion polls read.
We are not just talking about the straight-up Labour vs. National polls, either. Approval for Ardern’s coalition government is riding a high, thanks in large part to New Zealand’s navigating around COVID-19. According to the firm Roy Morgan, as of June 2020, her government had 72 percent of New Zealanders saying the nation was heading in the right direction.1 It’s tough to dislodge a one-term government, and it is even tougher to bounce one with high approval.
National, meanwhile, is on its third leader this year. Simon Bridges left in May, and Todd Muller only led the party for a month and a half before Judith Collins assumed power. Not only that, but a wave of bad news hit the party at about the same time surrounding her candidate slate. For a party under that much strife to turn around and win an election a few months later would be shocking to say the least. Collins’ goal, if nothing else, should be to avoid the party getting blown out in 2020.
Popularity for Labour and Ardern’s government hasn’t rubbed off on their coalition partner, New Zealand First. There is polling evidence to show Winston Peters and company will be washed out of the House of Representatives in September. A party either must win a seat or crack five percent in the party vote to get into Parliament, and in current polling, NZ First is doing neither. They’ve had their own bad news in 2020, and this could be the second election since their founding in 1993 in which they come up empty.
NZ Election References
1: Roy Morgan, “PM Jacinda Ardern on track for easy re-election as National’s leader Todd Muller resigns after fewer than two months in the job,” Roy Morgan, 14 July 2020, Roy Morgan Link)