Interesting item from the NZ Herald about competition, both interparty and intraparty, in the Auckland Central district.
Labour’s Judith Tizard and National’s Nikki Kaye are in what could be a close interparty race for the electorate seat. However, the loser is not assured of entering parliament through the list.
Tizard, who has held Auckland Central since 1996, is one of several low-ranked electorate MPs who have been given a message that they may be on the way out. She has a list ranking of 38, well down on her 18th spot in 2005.
And Kaye is 57 on National’s list with 19 list-only candidates above her. Any slippage in National’s high poll ratings will not favour the 28-year-old, one of several young candidates the party wants to get over the line.
The outcome of this contest thus has a potential impact on the intraparty dimension. That is, while district results in New Zealand’s MMP system generally do not affect the balance in the house among parties,1 they can affect the make-up of the party caucus.
An added wrinkle here is that the National candidate is courting some of the same voters who ordinarily vote for the Green party.
Kaye joins a list of National hopefuls who have wooed the socially liberal voters who live in the expensive inner-city suburbs of Herne Bay, Ponsonby and Grey Lynn and shop for organic vegetables. In 2005, Pansy Wong fell 3884 votes short of Tizard.
It will take a 14.1 per cent swing for Kaye to win the Labour stronghold, but, more likely, the seat will be determined by the Green vote.
At the last two elections, the Greens’ Nandor Tanczos won more than 5000 electorate votes to go with a very strong party vote.
Tanczos is not a candidate in the district this time.
According to an unnamed centre-right commentator, the arithmetic is simple. National needs to eat into the Green vote. It cannot win with just its own vote. If Green voters switch electorate votes to Labour, Tizard is safe.
Does it make sense for a Green-leaning voter to pick a National candidate? It might, given that a strong list vote will give the Green party a voice in parliament even if (as is likely) it wins no electorate seats. The electorate vote will not change the balance between Labour and National, so if a given National candidate has more greenish appeal than the Labour rival in the district, why not? It is this sort of voter flexibility across the inter- and intra-party dimension that might have led some folks to suggest that MMP could offer the “best of both worlds” of plurality and PR.
Note, however, that the ability of voters to have a relevant intraparty vote in such a case depends on the district candidates not being assured of election via the list. Otherwise there is no opportunity to affect who wins within a party. In the past I have suggested that a mixed-member system really needs to have dually listed legislators2 in order to live up to its â€œbest of both worldsâ€ potential. Now I am not so sure.
- Except when the party has won more seats via the nominal tier (the ‘electorate’ seats) than its party vote would entitle it to. Such an ‘overhang’ for either Labour or National is highly unlikely, though the Maori party and a couple of other small parties are expected to earn overhang seats. In fact, the Maori party’s district success has the potential to affect the house balance in a big way this time. [↩]
- Those that ran on both the list and a district and thus may have entered parliament despite not having a district-vote plurality. [↩]