The final results have been released. (Photo by Lynn Grieveson – Newsroom/Newsroom via Getty Images)
The final results have been released. (Photo by Lynn Grieveson – Newsroom/Newsroom via Getty Images)

PoliticsNovember 6, 2020

The special votes are in and it’s bad news for the cannabis referendum, and National

The final results have been released. (Photo by Lynn Grieveson – Newsroom/Newsroom via Getty Images)
The final results have been released. (Photo by Lynn Grieveson – Newsroom/Newsroom via Getty Images)

The final results of 2020’s general election have been released, with National losing two seats, the Māori Party gaining a seat and the referendum results not changing.

Parliament has turned a little redder with the special votes as Labour has picked up an additional seat and become the first party since 1951 to win over half the popular vote.

The final results today were bad news for the National Party and an unexpected bounty for the Māori Party. New Zealanders gave Labour a commanding majority allowing it to rule for three years, largely unhampered by the opposition.

With 50.01% of the popular vote, Labour received more party votes than National in every electorate across New Zealand except Epsom, in Auckland. Speaking with reporters today after her cabinet was sworn in, prime minister Jacinda Ardern reiterated her promise to govern for everyone in a country where the party won nearly every city, town and village.

“As I said on election night and many times since, we will be the government for all New Zealanders,” said Ardern.

The referendum results did not change overall, with the cannabis question still failing, however with a much tighter margin. Speaking today, Ardern once again ruled out any drug reform in the coming years.

The 48.4% who supported the cannabis referendum question, to 50.7% who opposed it, will need to be sated by a law passed during the last term that asks police to refer more drug arrests to health services instead of jail, she said. About 500 such referrals have taken place so far, out of thousands of arrests.

Act and the Green Party are still unchanged at 10 seats each. Chlöe Swarbrick held onto Auckland Central, with a margin of 1,068 votes.

The Greens had hoped to bring in Steve Abel with an additional seat, going so far as to shoot some photos of the new caucus on the steps of parliament with him joining in. While the Greens saw their support increase significantly with the special ballots, vaulting past a declining Act party vote, it wasn’t enough.

Held in a world awash with Covid-19, the election saw a record number of advanced ballots cast. The campaign before election day, which was itself delayed for a month, saw Auckland in a partial lockdown for weeks.

“This was not a typical election. There were two referendums, another big increase in early voting, and for the first time, people could enrol on election day. The election was held in a Covid environment,” chief electoral officer Alicia Wright said today.

With his victory in Waiariki assured, the Māori Party’s Rawiri Waititi will be joined by Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. The party was considered on life-support only months ago and few polls, if any, had expected that it would return to parliament with two seats.

Gerry Brownlee announced he’d be stepping down as National’s deputy leader after the final results were revealed. In a blow to the opposition, National lost two seats and now will have a caucus of 33.

“My focus, moving forward, will be on rebuilding National’s base in Christchurch and representing our voters there,” said Brownlee in a statement. He lost his seat of Ilam during last month’s election after holding it for nearly a quarter century.

Brownlee made headlines before the election when he was “just asking questions” about the government’s Covid-19 response. His statements were compared to conspiracy theories.

More distressing for the opposition, three blue electorate wins from election night were overturned on the final result, all of them cases of National losing seats to Labour. Many of the seats were National strongholds which Labour had not expected to win.

Matt King, who had held the contested Northland seat for National, lost to Labour’s Willow-Jean Prime by 163 votes. New Zealand First with Shane Jones had also mounted a challenge to win the seat but finished a distant third. King has announced he’ll seek a recount, something that historically has seen a few dozen ballots change sides, according to the electoral commission.

Denise Lee in Maungakiekie lost to Priyanca Radhakrishnan by 635 votes. Radhakrishnan entered cabinet today as the minister for diversity and youth.

Dr Shane Reti, National’s health critic in Whangārei, lost to Labour’s Emily Henderson. Reti will be the only one of the three National MPs who lost their electorates to keep a seat in parliament due to his high place on the party’s list. West Coast-based Maureen Pugh, who was on a precarious place on National’s list, will stay in parliament.

The assisted-dying referendum still won in the end with 65.1% of the vote, with 33.7% opposed.

With 82.2% turnout, the highest since 1999, nearly three million votes were cast in the election, at 2,919,086. In the final count, 67.7% of those votes were advance ballots. The parties will have until next Thursday to request recounts.

While Ardern’s new Labour cabinet took office today after a ceremony at government house, the new MPs will be sworn in on Nov. 25 and a new speaker will be elected that day. A speech from the throne will be held the following day, setting the government’s priorities for the next term. Parliament will sit for just over a week before breaking for summer vacation.

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