Prime Minister-in waiting Christopher Luxon says he is confident National and Act can govern alone and they now have a mandate to take the country forward.
“Thank you so much and thank you New Zealand ... you have reached for hope and you have voted for change,” the National leader told supporters, prompting loud cheers.
“I am immensely proud to say that on the numbers tonight, National will be able to lead the next government,” he said
“My pledge to you is that our government will deliver for every New Zealander.”
National now had a mandate to take the country forward, Luxon said.
The latest vote count projects that National would win 50 seats, Labour 34, the Greens 14, Act 11, NZ First 8 and Te Pāti Māori with four seats.
Just over 96 per cent of the vote had been counted as at midnight.
The result transitions Luxon, 53, from a first-term MP into running the country - National and Act would have a combined 61 seats in a Parliament with a projected 121 MPs in total. That’s potentially enough to govern without needing support from NZ First.
However National will have a wary eye on the results with the prospect of an overhang in Parliament - meaning there could be more than 120 MPs in total. That could mean 61 seats might not be enough - and the prospect of Luxon having to turn to NZ First.
Special votes could also impact on Parliament’s final shape, with a final result scheduled to be declared on November 3.
There will also be a by-election held in Port Waikato on November 25 – a seat National currently holds – due to the death of Act candidate Neil Christensen during the campaign.
Labour leader Chris Hipkins has phoned Luxon and conceded defeat: “As it stands Labour is not in a position to form a government,” Hipkins told supporters. He made no reference to his future plans during his speech.
STORY CONTINUES AFTER LIVE BLOG
Earlier: What to watch out for
The right began today hoping for enough support for a National-Act coalition. If not, National leader Christopher Luxon has said he will pick up the phone and call NZ First leader Winston Peters to prevent another Labour-led government.
National leader Christopher Luxon and Act leader David Seymour.
Before tonight’s vote count began the Herald’s poll of polls had Labour on 26.8 per cent, the Greens on 12.4 per cent and Te Pāti Māori on 2.6 per cent. It had National on 35.5 per cent, Act on 11 per cent and NZ First on 6.1 per cent.
That would have translated to a National, Act and NZ First having the numbers to form a government.
Labour leader Chris Hipkins casting his vote at the Māngere Arts Centre. Photo / Jason Oxenham
As of the end of Thursday, 1.1 million votes had already been cast in advance. This is slightly ahead of 2017 levels but behind 2020, when there was a greater incentive to vote early given we were still in the Covid-19 pandemic.
The weather may also have been a factor in today’s voter turnout. Atrocious weather in Wellington and Canterbury today, for example, will do little to encourage people to get out and vote.
The final count is due to be announced on November 3, which includes special votes that are cast outside a voter’s electorate (including from overseas). Last election, two seats swung to the left after special votes were counted.
Green Party co-leader James Shaw at the Newstalk ZB Mike Hosking-hosted Leaders' Breakfast for minor parties. Photo / Michael Craig
The Māori seats will also be fascinating. Te Pāti Māori will need to win a seat to return to Parliament unless it reaches the 5 per cent threshold, which it hasn’t been close to in any of the recent polls.
If the party wins several seats, and more than what it would based solely on its share of the party vote, it will create an overhang in Parliament. This would change the magic number required for a Parliamentary majority from 61 to 62.
Tāmaki: Will National’s Simon O’Connor hold his seat or lose it to Act’s Brooke van Velden?
Auckland Central: Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick faces a fight to keep her seat against National’s Mahesh Muralidhar.
Wellington Central: The race is wide open, with Labour’s Ibrahim Omer, the Greens’ Tamatha Paul and National’s Scott Sheeran all vying for the win after incumbent Grant Robertson decided to be a list-only candidate.
Ōhāriu: Will Labour MP Greg O’Connor, who needs to win to return to Parliament, keep his seat or lose it to National deputy leader Nicola Willis?
Waiariki: Te Pāti Māori Rawhiri Waititi is expected to keep his seat, but if he doesn’t, it puts the return of Te Pāti Māori to Parliament in jeopardy as the other contests are all expected to be much closer.
Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Te Tai Hauauru: The electorate is being contested by Hāwera-based Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Labour list MP Soraya Peke-Mason. Incumbent Adrian Rurawhe decided to be a list-only candidate.
Ikaroa-Rawhiti: Te Pati Maori’s Meka Whaitiri, who quit the Labour Party earlier this year, is hoping to keep her seat against a challenge from Labour’s Cushla Tangaere Manuel.
Hauraki-Waikato: Labour’s Nanaia Mahuta is facing a new challenge in Te Pāti Māori’s Hana-Rāwhiti Maipi-Clarke, who is only 21.
Hutt South: Ginny Andersen is the incumbent, but the Labour MP’s challenger - National’s Chris Bishop - has previously held the seat and may well win again with the turning of the red tide. Andersen may not return to Parliament if she loses, given her position on the party list.
Wairarapa: The same equation for Andersen also applies to incumbent Labour MP Kieran McAnulty, who faces a challenge from National’s Mike Butterick.
Northland: Expected to be won easily by National’s Grant McCallum. But if NZ First falls short of 5 per cent, it could still return to Parliament if Shane Jones wins this seat.
New MPs and potential for a greatly diminished Labour caucus
With 65 MPs this term and Labour polling below 30 per cent, the party faces losing up to 30 MPs. Who they will be depends on who wins their electorate contests, as well as what Labour’s party vote finishes on.
Several MPs are relatively low on the party list but should win their seats and return to Parliament, including Phil Twyford (Te Atatū), Michael Wood (Mt Roskill), Helen White (Mt Albert), Arena Williams (Manurewa), Ingrid Leary (Taieri), Lemauga Lydia Sosene (Māngere) and Jenny Salesa (Panmure‑Ōtāhuhu).
They could push out current ministers and MPs who are list-only (Andrew Little, David Parker, Willie Jackson), or who may not hold their electorate seats, including Jo Luxton (Rangitata), Ginny Anderson (Hutt South), Priyanca Radhakrishnan (Maungakiekie) and Willow-Jean Prime (Northland).
Senior Labour MP David Parker. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Act, the Greens and NZ First - if it makes the 5 per cent threshold - are all looking like they’ll bring in a host of new MPs.
That includes NZ First candidate Casey Costello, former spokeswoman for Hobson’s Pledge and chairwoman of the Taxpayers’ Union, who may end up being a crucial bridge between NZ First and Act.
It will be interesting to see if NZ First wins enough votes to see Tanya Unkovich become an MP. The life coach and author has so far not commented on whether she joined an online channel dedicated to identifying New Zealanders for “crimes against humanity” supposedly committed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Depending on the amount of the wasted vote, 8 or 9 per cent could be enough for NZ First candidate and lawyer Kirsten Murfitt to become an MP. She has not responded to reports of anti-vax comments online that she apparently posted under a pseudonym, including referring to the Covid-19 vaccine as a “death shot”, or the vaccinated as “technically no longer ‘human’”.
Neither Unkovich nor Murfitt have responded to requests for comment. Peters has defended the party candidates, saying they had been vetted and there was nothing to be concerned about.
Derek Cheng is a senior journalist who started at the Herald in 2004. He has worked several stints in the press gallery and is a former deputy political editor.
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