In which your author admits to (at least) two big mistakes about the 2014 election, and then proceeds to risk making another one.

I got one thing right about this election. I managed not to do anything as misguided as publicly state a prediction that National would get anything like as low a vote total as 44% ... as for instance, did Bryce Edwards. Yep, I'd imagine he woke up this morning feeling pretty silly. Prettaaay, prettaaay silly.

Of course, being a wannabe pundit, I by definition made some screwups of my own in respect of the election outcome. So, in the spirit of Kim Dotcom's "it's really all about me and my mistakes", let me take a moment to revisit them and consume my fair portion of crow.

The first took place nearly a year ago, when Claire Robinson penned an opinion piece in the New Zealand Herald predicting that "the 2014 general election result has already been decided." Which prompted me to indignantly take to the interwebz to pompously declare her analysis to be faulty and half-baked and ... yadda, yadda, yadda.

Well, more fool me.

Now, I could offer the half-hearted defence that in my post I did state that "I'll accept there's at least a 50-50 chance that [National will lead the government after the next election]", while concluding that:

Claire may very well be right, and history will repeat. But I'd say it is equally likely (or unlikely) that Claire will be proven wrong, and that something else will happen.

And I could back that defence up by pointing out that the much wiser and more experienced and generally better Tim Watkin shared some of my views. But that would be a desperate piece of rearguard action purely designed to save face.

So I won't do it. Claire put her neck on the line, called it like she saw it and got it right. Let that be noted for the ages.

The second was more recent, occuring all of two days ago. In my last pre-election post, I gleefully posited a situation in which the election results meant that Judith Collins' failure to push through with reform to MMP cost National the election. I then maliciously suggested that this would be a delightful irony ... yadda, yadda, yadda.

Again, I could claim in my defence that I didn't say this scenario would occur - as I said, I managed to avoid the embarrassment of publicly putting any figures beside parties' names. But that would once again be to duck full responsibility for my error.

Because, as it happens, I got things completely, 180 degrees the wrong way around. The actual result on the night proved that the decision not to pursue MMP reform was a masterstroke.

First, the lingering promise of "coat-tail" seats first spawned the electoral disaster that the Internet-Mana Party proved to be, as well as tempting some 1.26% of left voters to throw their support to that party ... only to then see those votes largely wasted when Kelvin Davis beat Hone Harawira. And then, by keeping the party vote threshold at 5%, National gained the effective benefit of half of the 4.12% of the vote that Colin Craig's Conservative Party pulled in without facing the potential horrors of having to govern with his support. All of which means that, at the moment, under the MMP rules that National chose to retain, it is looking at having a parliamentary majority all on its own at a shade over 48% of the vote.

Now, can I know for sure that this outcome was planned in advance and not just a happy coincidence? Of course not. But everything else about National's campaign has been so bloody effective that I'm not ruling it out. So kudos and well-played to Judith Collins - she got her doubled revenge served cold and with extra malice.

Now, having copped to making a couple of mistakes, let me go ahead and sort of make another one. There are a couple of excellent posts (here and here) suggesting that the count of special votes (which doesn't take place for another couple of weeks) will not alter the present distribution of seats in the House, based on the way in which special votes were distributed back in 2011.

That's a fair enough mode of analysis. After all, no-one really knows what's in those special votes, so basing present predictions on past performance is about as good a job as can be done. But it does, however, assume that the special votes this time around largely replicate those cast back in 2011. And there's some reason to wonder if this might not be the case.

According to the Electoral Commission's overall status chart, there presently are 254,630 special votes outstanding. But according to this Radio NZ story, the total number is expected to rise to "293,130 including 38,500 overseas votes, which is 12.2 percent of the total number of votes." That compares to 263,469 special votes cast in 2011, or 11.8 percent of the total number of votes at that election.

Two points on this. First, if the expected number of special votes show up, there's some 0.4% more of them this time around (or about 30,000 raw votes). Second, the expected number of overseas votes is about twice that received in 2011.

Does that matter? Well, maybe not. But as Chuan-Zheng Lee says in his post on the matter, it might. Because if specials fall this time like they did in 2011, National only just keeps its 61 seat absolute majority in Parliament (and the Greens only just miss out on a 14th MP). But if those specials are a little bit different to the ones cast three years ago?

Well then, there may be one last, small twist in this election tale yet to come. Not one that will change the functional outcome - it is 100% certain that National will be leading the Government for the next three years. But the shape of that Government may yet require a bit of massaging.

Comments (4)

by tussock on September 21, 2014

As a commenter here who took the time to say the polls could be tragically high like last time, they turned out to be close enough, or even a bit low for National. Give or take for specials.

I don't think it's wise to trust in advance that groups who get things so wrong as they did in 2011 would get it right this time. But they're professionals and they did very well to correct whatever had been drifting wrong in the past, and keep it right for the duration. Congrats to them: while the polls can be off and late swings can happen, they usually get it close and they did this time too. High 40's it is.


Congrats to the Nats. Three more years under the heel.

by mikesh on September 21, 2014

Poor old Dotcom's sterling efforts were, of course, spiked by the terrorist scare across the Tasman two days before the election. I wonder how National managed to stage that. they're a clever lot those Nats.

by Julie Macdonald on September 22, 2014
Julie Macdonald

It will be interesting to see if the 'get the vote out' efforts on university campuses are an factor in the increased number of specials. Many university students are not registered in their university electorate.

by Liam Hehir on September 22, 2014
Liam Hehir

A lot of people were shown to have called various things about this one wrong. It happens to everyone and the important thing is to learn from it. Unfortunately, that can often only come from painful self-examinations.

Why did I think that would or would not happen? Was it because the evidence pointed that way or was it because I wanted it to be true? To what extent did I project my own biases onto others? Was I too eager to interpret information in a way that comforted me or flattered my pre-conceptions?

Human nature being what it is, these are some of the hardest tendencies to overcome.

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