An article in the Dominion Post asserts that National lost the election because its local candidates were more popular than the party.
Ir is true that National got 40.4% of the electorate vote and only 39.1% of the party vote, but it is simplistic and wrong (in my opinion) to paint this as a reason they lost.
The party vote is generally a contest between eight parties while most electorate contests are between just two candidates. Thus it is quite normal and ordinary for a large party to have a higher electorate vote than party vote. Now if it is 10% higher as National did in 2002 that is a problem, but a 1.3% difference is not a big deal. You can not assume that those people were potential National party voters – they may be minor party supporters doing the sensible thing and not wasting their electorate vote.
What is unusual is that Labour did have less electorate votes than party votes – 40.4% to 41.1%. In 34 seats they got more electorate votes than party votes, but got less in 35 seats. However if you remove the seven Maori seats and the four party leader seats of Tauranga, Epsom, OB and Wigram you find in fact Labour elsewhere got 10,874 more electorate votes than party votes.
Another factor is exceptional candidates can attract wide cross-party support. Nick Smith in Nelson gets 8,000 or so more candidate votes than party votes. Now most of them are never going to vote National, they just think Nick is a good local MP.No tag for this post.