New Zealand’s ruling National Party and opposition Labour Party have tussled fiercely over who is the biggest bogeyman to the ragged economy. The past five years under National’s particularly business-friendly government could have easily re-energized Labour, a party that has been fending off pressure from unions and citizen activists on the left.
But the election came down to which camp has the public’s ear.
“You can watch in real time how the polls were already swinging, which was starting to have implications around how governments are viewed in these jurisdictions,” said Tom Wright, the head of research at Ipsos Global Public Affairs.
Their story didn’t change dramatically once the final polls were released a week ago. The final one taken at 2 a.m. on Sunday showed Labour winning 30 seats, 10 more than National. A ballot count in the smaller number of electorates, including those for Parliament’s upper house of the Legislative Council, showed Labour winning just over 44 percent of the popular vote, compared with 31 percent for National.
The party that is expected to form the government needed 37 percent to win a majority, and all but four of the lower house seats in its new 120-seat chamber are held by it. The outlier was the southern city of Christchurch, where voters opted for center-right Mana Party of Winston Peters, who led National to a surprise election win in 2001.
But as with other recent political events, few would have anticipated it being so tight as to send the mood of some confused New Zealanders topsy-turvy.
At 4 a.m. the following morning, a member of the public on an online forum joked, “So much activity just before NZ election…”