The Numbers Required for National to Govern under MMP

I have repeatedly commented on the strategic stupidity of National for not understanding that it is doomed to being the natural party of opposition if MMP remains the electoral system.

National’s coalition partners, ACT and the Maori Party, do not have much longer in Parliament, as described here and here.

This table shows all the Coalition Governments formed since 1996, and the percentage of the vote obtained by the government.

Winning Coalitions
Seats Percentage Vote
National 44 33.84%
New Zealand First 17 13.35%
Total 61 47.19%
1999 Seats Percentage Vote
Labour 49 38.74%
Alliance 10 7.74%
Total 59 46.48%
2002 Seats Percentage Vote
Labour 52 41.26%
Jim Anderton 2 1.70%
United Future 8 6.69%
Total 62 49.65%
2005 Seats Percentage Vote
Labour 50 41.10%
United Future 3 2.67%
New Zealand First 7 5.72%
Jim Anderton 1 1.16%
Total 61 50.65%
2008 Seats Percentage Vote
National 58 44.93%
ACT 5 3.65%
Maori 5 2.39%
United Future 1 0.87%
Total 69 51.84%

The rough analysis is that to be government a coalition needs over 47% of the vote, votes for parties with no MPs mean that 47% is enough to govern.

Percentage Votes for Coalitions      
1996   47.19%  
1999   46.48% Minority  
2002   49.65%  
2005   50.65%  
2008   51.84%  

The problem for National is that the big parties very, very rarely get to the 47% mark, and even if National do without the minor parties taking small percentages of the votes there is less wasted vote, which could push this number up to 48% of the vote.

Historically it has been near impossible to win 48% of the vote.

As this previous post shows, only once since 1951 has a major party received more than 50% of the vote, and National have only once received over 48% of the vote.

A retention of the MMP system is a concession from National that they will be the natural party of opposition indefinitely, because they won’t have coalition partners while Labour and the Greens can work together to shut out National.


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  • I hear ya. Question is: do they?

  • BenLW

    Doesn’t this just equate to “Let’s change electoral system so we can win!”? Isn’t that bad for democracy?

  • David C

    I dont agree with you here.
    The voters views and desires do not change, and if as you say some of the smaller parties fall off the radar then either the Nats will just get a larger chunk of the vote than historically or new small parties will spring up to fill a void.
    I cant see a Nat voter in 08 and 11 voting Labour just because ACT is gone, who will the RWNJ’s vote for if ACT is gone?
    If ACT get in with a handful of MP’s this year as I think they will they will have a couple of years to headhunt a likely leader to lead them into 2014.
    and is Labour going to be able to rebuild for 2014?
    Will a few Nat MP’s spin off a party that is further right?