27 Nov 2017

Wait, so who actually won the election?

4:41 pm on 27 November 2017

“Winning solves everything” - Tiger Woods.


Reality, or Nick Smith's beautiful dream?

Reality, or Nick Smith's beautiful dream? Photo: RNZ/Alexander Robertson

Nick Smith plunged the country into turmoil over the weekend, as a letter written to his constituents claiming the National Party had “won the election” was leaked online.

“Election 2017 has resulted in an unusual outcome where National won the election but lost the MMP negotiations,” the Nelson MP wrote.

Smith highlighted that National received more votes (1,152,075) than in either of the past three elections and handsomely beat Labour, 44.4 percent to 36.9 percent.

National’s party vote was even bigger than any Labour Party under Helen Clark was able to achieve, he said.

We, at The Wireless, were surprised by Smith’s claim and decided to investigate.

Naturally, our first stop was social media, where we discovered Smith had support from Twitter user Paul Kasner, who tweeted: “Well, it's true. No other party got more votes than @NZNationalParty. That's called winning.”

After Newshub published Smith’s letter, user of the Face Book, David Hughes posted: “You screeching lefties might not like it but he's absolutely right. It doesn't change the situation on the ground but he is right. God save the Queen!”

Nick Smith's letter to party members.

Nick Smith's letter to party members. Photo: Reddit

Others disagreed.

Janice Evans posted: “Labour, Greens and NZ 1st all together, they got more votes than National, so grow up and get on with the job.”

Emily Donovan echoed her words: “Jesus, can they get over it? They're still paid to actually work in their position, and paid far more than public servants I might add, so get on with the job.”

But that didn’t satisfy our dogged journalistic integrity. Besides, we want a damn winner, Emily.

Our next stop was Wikipedia, which revealed that after the 2017 general election, the Labour and NZ First parties formed a new Government, with confidence and supply from the Greens.

Furthermore, the page shows Smith’s National Party and its 56 MPs are currently in opposition.

Indeed, in his letter, Smith acknowledges the role NZ First played in striking a deal with Labour.

“This odd outcome came about because NZ First has ignored the convention both in New Zealand and overseas that the party with the most votes gets to form the Government,” Smith wrote.

We dug a little deeper.

Collins Dictionary defines an election as, “a process in which people vote to choose a person or group of people to hold an official position”.

The same dictionary defines winning as, “if you win something such as a competition, battle, or argument, you defeat those people you are competing or fighting against, or you do better than everyone else involved”.

This only left us scratching our heads, so we interviewed political commentator and analyst Bryce Edwards, who reckons “no one really won the election”.

Bryce Edwards.

Bryce Edwards. Photo: Twitter

What the hell do you mean, Bryce?

Despite National getting the most votes, under our MMP system, just because you have the most votes, doesn’t mean you have won an election. That is in no way winning.

You could potentially argue you have won an election if you’ve formed a Government, but really, we’re moving beyond that first-past-the-post language and because there are so many different parties with different results to take into account, no one really wins elections anymore.

That’s lame.

It is perhaps a little sad because we do like to have a winner, but it’s really forming a Government that counts.

So why would Nick Smith say this?

You can understand why Nick Smith and perhaps a lot of older, traditional voters might think in that old-fashioned way - that parties win elections - but Smith, who has been in Parliament since 1990, should know that he’s not using correct language. It suggests National still has some sour grapes about the election outcome, but to come across as sore losers doesn’t really help their cause.

So you’re saying they’re trying to save face?

I think so. There is some genuine feeling within National that the party didn’t deserve to go out of power and they can’t quite comprehend this despite having done so well in the voting.

The way Nick Smith talks about the election result and outcome bears some similarity to language Donald Trump has used in the past about crooked politicians, fake news and blaming others.