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The BulletinNovember 3, 2023

The election wait is over

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Today’s the day the shape of the new government finally comes into view. But what difference will the official results actually make, asks Catherine McGregor in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

Coalition partners, start your engines

The wait is (almost) over. In a few hours – at 2pm, to be exact – the Electoral Commission will release the official vote count for Election 2023, allowing National and its potential partners to stop twiddling their thumbs and get started on forming a government. As Stewart Sowman-Lund writes in an excellent explainer, the final vote count includes approximately 567,000 special votes that weren’t included in the preliminary tally on October 14. Special votes are traditionally thought to favour the left since many of them come from overseas New Zealanders and students living away from home, but the effect could be muted this year if overseas voters decide en masse to punish Labour for the extended pandemic border closures. As for why it’s taken so long to count the votes, the complaints, criticisms and counter-arguments are all but exhausted by now, but if you’re still wondering what’s going on let us direct you once again to Graeme Edgeler’s very useful explainer.

The electorates to watch

The final vote count will include both the individual electorate and party vote tallies. In a handful of electorates, razor-thin vote margins will have the leading candidates nervously counting down the hours to 2pm. Ones to watch include Nelson, where Labour’s Rachel Boyack currently trails National’s Blair Cameron by just 54 votes; Mount Albert, where Labour’s Helen White leads National’s Melissa Lee by 106 votes; Banks Peninsula, where National newcomer Vanessa Weenink is 83 votes ahead of Labour MP Tracey McLellan; and Te Atatū, where National newbie Angee Nicholas leads veteran Labour MP Phil Twyford by a stunningly tight 30 votes. In Māori seats Te Tai Tokerau and Tāmaki Makaurau the Labour candidates are leading their Te Pāti Māori rivals – but not by enough to be comfortable. As football legend Sir Alex Ferguson would say, it’s squeaky bum time for all involved.

So what will the results actually mean?

In short: if Mount Albert flips, that would be (symbolically) great news for National. It would be a result totally unforeseeable ahead of election night. If Te Atatū, Nelson, Banks Peninsula or New Lynn fall back to Labour, that would be bad for the incoming government. It wouldn’t change the overall number of seats National picks up but could see the return of experienced MPs like Phil Twyford.  The party vote share will also be keenly watched. According to the Herald’s Audrey Young, if both Act and NZ First are required for National to govern, and Act is substantially ahead of NZ First in the party vote, it’ll be an easy call for Luxon to keep Act inside Cabinet and NZ First outside. “But if the gaps between them narrows and they end up, say, both close to 8 per cent, it could be highly problematic for Luxon.”

No change at the top for Labour?

While National gets down to business on forming a government, Labour will start bedding itself in as the opposition. Though the caucus still has two and a half months to endorse Hipkins as leader, RNZ’s Jane Patterson says the vote could take place as early as November 7. It seems Hipkins’ position is secure for now. “There will be resentment and recriminations over the loss, and a great deal aimed at Hipkins as leader, but for now there appear to be no active moves against him.” Hipkins’ camp is dismissing rumours that David Parker will challenge for the top job, Tova O’Brien’s reports. They’re confident that none of the caucus really wants a damaging leadership fight. Too many of them “lived through Labour’s nine long years in the wilderness with its revolving roulette of leaders, and they know the lasting damage it caused”.

 

This article has been edited to reflect an error in the previous version that suggested electorate seat wins for Labour would alter the overall composition of parliament. That is determined by the party vote. 

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