Monday, September 19, 2005

The opinion polls before the election didn't get it very right, did they!
Only one company (TNS, contracted to TV3) got anywhere near. The others were way off-course, including AC Nielsen who claimed before the day to be the most accurate. It was hard to choose between Herald-DigiPoll, TV1-Colmar Brunton and NBR-Phillip Fox for who was most inaccurate. I feel a bit sorry for NBR - the company they contracted prior to the 2002 election (UMR) gave them frightful service, and they didn't fare much better with Phillip Fox this time. I know the electorate was volatile, but I think the survey companies are going to have to ask themselves some hard questions regarding methodology.
The overall vote for centre-left parties, including the Maori Party, dropped from 51.1 per cent to 48.8 per cent. The centre-right, defined broadly to include New Zealand First and United Future, climbed from 46.9 per cent to 50.2 per cent.
A couple of random thoughts re the also-rans:
Destiny gained the highest vote of any party not represented in Parliament. The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party polled twice as many votes as Christian Heritage. Alliance (once headed and then deserted by Jim Anderton) managed only 0.07% of the vote - surely they must be dead and buried now.
I have been doing some number crunching regarding special votes.
If National is to gain parity with Labour (ie, 40%), it needs to garner 98,651 or 45.3% of the special votes. To remain at 5%, the Greens need 9,923 of the special votes, or 4.6%. Less than that, and they are out completely, which would destroy Helen Clark's chances of forming the government. In previous elections, the Greens have done well in the specials, but it would appear that previous elections are not a good guide to this one. For instance, it has been pointed out that the last two elections were held in the university holidays, so many students would have been casting special votes. As the Greens pick up many votes among students, they might be down in the specials this time round. National's fortunes may also depend on what kind of person votes overseas. For instance, if there is a higher than usual percentage of disgruntled kiwis who left NZ because of Labour (and they bother to vote), National could do better in the specials this time round.
All the above might be way off beam if Rodney Hide's prediction is accurate. He says a very large number of the 218,000 specials to be counted will prove to be invalid. Voters not on the roll who turn up to vote are given a special vote. If they do not have a late valid enrolment the vote is not counted. He doubts that there are more than 120,000 valid votes to count, unlikely to change the result.
Nonetheless, Helen Clark can't count her chickens yet.

Whoever forms the government has a major economic challenge just around the corner. Slowing exports and rising oil prices look set to push up New Zealand's second-quarter current account deficit to levels not seen for 20 years. Statistics New Zealand will release the latest current account figures, also known as the balance of payments, on Wednesday. The data measures all of the country's transactions with the outside world. The March quarter deficit was $1.42 billion, which amounted to 7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Ten economists polled by Dow Jones forecast the median quarterly deficit for June would swell to $2.6 billion, or 7.5 per cent of GDP for the June quarter. The last time the current account deficit was higher as a proportion of GDP was in March 1986, when it was at 8.9 per cent. Any level above 5 per cent of GDP is usually an alarm signal to international investors. Reserve Bank Governor Alan Bollard says this is not sustainable.

Voters also plunged Germany into political limbo on Sunday, splitting their ballots between Angela Merkel's conservatives and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats so closely that both claimed victory.

Relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina demonstrate the US Federal government’s growing handover of responsibility to faith groups, The Independent says. Church shelters mushroomed across Louisiana and Texas to cater for evacuees unable to afford motel accommodation. In the coastal Mississippi resort of Waveland the first significant relief came from Life Christian Church of Orange Beach, Alabama. Sixty volunteers served three meals a day to 4,000 people and even fed members of the police, National Guard and Fema (Federal Emergency Management Agency), pastor Rick Long said. The Independent suggested this was fulfilling a goal set by President Bush’s first Fema director.

A British delegation led by Labour MP David Drew has met Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to urge repeal of the country’s discriminatory blasphemy laws. The visit to Pakistan was organised by Christian Solidarity Worldwide in order to secure greater protection for religious minorities, against whom the laws and "Hudood Ordinances" have often been unfairly used. CSW director Stuart Windsor said "This has been the most important visit we have made to Pakistan … We urge the international community to put the repeal of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan higher on the agenda." UCB this week reported that Younis Masih, aged 27 from Lahore, has been arrested on blasphemy charges after he asked a neighbour to turn down the volume of loud Islamic music he was playing.

Are we losing touch with the classic literature of our childhood (by "our", I mean in this instance people over the age of about 45)? Today's English curriculum ignores what used to be the standard fare of the baby-boomers and before. Well, there's one group helping to preserve their popularity: home-schoolers. Home-schoolers are a growing force in the educational world, and they are still reading books from days of yore.

Grave-less new world: Mobile telecommunications are set to revolutionise traditional burial processes, the Church of England Newspaper predicts. London architect Giles Lovegrove has won an award for a new concept in remembering people after they have died. Rather than a cemetery grave, "You choose a location that is close to your heart. People visit the spot with a mobile phone and only then does it activate a stream of information about the deceased person... words, pictures or even songs. It is a kind of digital obituary." The concept will use GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) that will be integral to the next generation of phones.

Tail-out: Ken Sinchar, 41, had met Lori Sherbondy, 42, at the drive-through at a McDonald's restaurant in Pittsburgh, Penn., so the couple thought it was fitting to get married there. Sherbondy took up her familiar position at the drive-through window and Sinchar sat in his minivan outside as they said their vows. A judge performed the ceremony as the couple held hands through the window and her parents sat inside. "It's really meant for us," the blushing bride said.

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