Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Kevin 07?

Ok, I'll admit my prediction about the Aus Federal election below is looking pretty shaky, given the good showing so far in the polls by Kevin Rudd and co. However, there are signs in the last 2 newspolls that things are tightening up - and 53% 2PP is nowhere near enough to feel comfortable.

For those wondering what 2PP means Australia's voting system allows voters to allocate preferences so that you give every candidate a number from 1,2,3 and so on depending on who is your preference. Candidates with low numbers of votes (usually minor parties and independents) are eliminated and people's preferences among the 2 highest candidates are considered, so the most important thing is which of the two major parties (Liberal or Labor) rank higher.

The reason 53% is not enough to feel comfortable is due to the fact that the overall election is not won by the party with the most votes, but by the party that wins the most seats. Generally, people already in parliament have an advantage because the voters know them. Since the seats that need to change hands for a change of government are obviously held by the government, this gives the incumbent government an advantage. It means for instance, that Labor might win 51% of the 2PP vote across the nation but because of a handful of really popular local MPs might still not get enough seats to form a majority in parliament. If the next newspoll shows things getting closer still, things will really start to get interesting.

Having said this, returning to my post below, Labors TV ad about interest rates IS very clever - it uses the same theme that Howard has used against Labor to point out that Howard's own record on interest rates is not that flash. You can watch it here. It's certainly better than simply reminding people interest rates are going up now without damaging Howard's counter that under Labor, interest rates would be even higher, which appeared to be the earlier approach taken. Of course, one might ask why this clever approach was not adopted three, six or even nine years ago to stop the Labor=higher interest rates mantra becoming such folk-wisdom.

I'm not prepared to withdraw my prediction yet though. I still feel Howard may hang on by one or two seats, even if he loses the popular vote. And if he does, it will be because the criteria on which voters decide returns to his perennial point of advantage, the economy. An interest rate rise might not hurt his chances at all. If Labor is to win, it must reverse the trend in newspoll and carry momentum into polling day.

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