Expect more political bombshells and squabbles before the next Prime Minister and government is sworn in.
Final election results were confirmed on Friday afternoon; including a two-seat overhang, which combined with the upcoming Port Waikato byelection, will see the new Parliament consist of 123 seats.
On the final results released today, National dropped two seats from 50 on election night to 48, while Act remained on 11. This gave the two parties 59 seats together, meaning another three seats would be needed to form a government.
Labour remains on 34 seats, the Green Party has 15 MPs, New Zealand First has eight, while Te Pāti Māori has six.
National is expected to pick up the last seat via the Port Waikato byelection.
But much more is set to be played out before a government is created, including the potential for recount requests in tight electorates - Labour’s Helen White retained Mt Albert by just 20 votes - and ongoing coalition talks where compromises will have to be made.
What sort of government could we have?
National leader Christopher Luxon and his negotiation team have been in talks with Act since shortly after polling night on October 14.
Initial backroom negotiations then began with NZ First.
But Luxon has made no secret of the fact he would much rather prefer being able to form the next government solely with David Seymour’s Act.
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A week ago, Luxon said he was “pleased with the progress”.
And on Thursday, he stated he would look to move to ramp up work towards finalising the shape of the next government as quickly as possible. But no timeframe has been given.
Under MMP, National has two ways to form a majority government.
They can create a formal coalition agreement with both Act and NZ First; like Labour did in 2017 with NZ First as a coalition partner.
Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern shaking hands after signing their coalition agreement post the 2017 General Election. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Labour-NZ First coalition also had a confidence and supply agreement with the Green Party.
Such a formal coalition deal would lead to members from multiple parties sitting around the Cabinet table.
Option two would be via a confidence and supply agreement.
If there was no three-pronged coalition deal between National-Act-NZ First, the future government could be made up via a formal coalition between National and Act, with NZ First leader Winston Peters signing a confidence and supply deal.
That would see NZ First voting in confidence of the government to show it has enough support in Parliament to govern, and also vote in support of the government’s budget.
For such a deal was struck, NZ First would likely be after roles in Cabinet.
Will there be any more changes to the make-up of Parliament?
Unsuccessful candidates in some of the seats decided by a slim margin can seek a recount of votes.
Recounts can also be sought regarding party votes in a particular electorate, or an application to apply for a recount of party votes in all electorates in New Zealand.
Electoral law allows candidates to seek a recount in the electorate they unsuccessfully sought election in. Political party secretaries can apply for a recount in terms of the party vote.
In both instances, applications must be made within three days of today’s official results being declared.
The final make-up of Parliament could change again if any candidates or parties seek a recount.
The other potential source of review of results can come via an electorate petition.
They include a challenge of the election of an electorate candidate, or the way party lists are allocated.
Any such submissions must come before the High Court within 28 days of today’s official result being declared.
Compiling the master roll – and potential law breaches
The official vote count was a complex process.
While doing it, vote counters compared all electoral rolls from voting places – as well as the unpublished rolls – and compiled a “master roll” which shows who voted.
That master roll is available for public inspection post the election process.
Prisoners at Christchurch Men's Prison being given voting papers by Electoral Commission staff. Photo / Department of Corrections
The Electoral Commission explains that the roll for respective electorates can only be viewed by a person who is enrolled in that electorate. But the roll only shows who voted, not who they voted for.
The creation of the master roll will also highlight anyone who has voted more than once.
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If anyone is found to have completed more than one voting form, the Electorate Commission investigates.
Those multiple votes are removed from the overall count and the Electoral Commission has the power to refer any breaches to New Zealand Police.
What happens to our voting papers?
Despite the General Election vote being formalised today, voting papers will be kept for six months.
The reason why is for any potential legal challenge.
Votes have already been placed in sealed envelopes and are stored in boxes with tamper-proof seals.
Voting papers will be kept securely for six months before they are destroyed.
They will now be kept in secure storage for six months – arranged by the Office of the Clerk of Representatives – in case they are needed for a legal challenge.
Once the six-month period is up, the Electoral Commission says they will be “destroyed securely, witnessed by representatives of the Office of the Clerk and the Electoral Commission”.
But the voting is over and done with just yet
Despite the special votes being counted, and the pace of coalition talks set to ramp up rapidly, we’re not done with the 2023 General Election just yet.
Voters in the Port Waikato electorate – which is south of the Manukau Harbour and includes Clarks Beach, Waiuku, Pukekohe, Pōkeno and Te Kauwhata – are still to vote for who will be their next MP.
The byelection for the Port Waikato electorate was called after the death of Act Party candidate Neil Christensen during the election campaign.
The sudden death of Act Party candidate Neil Christensen during the election campaign means the seat will be decided upon in a by-election.
It will be held on November 25.
According to electoral law, the candidate election for Port Waikato had to be cancelled if a candidate dies after the close of nominations but before polling day. The party vote will still be counted.
After his death, Act leader David Seymour paid tribute to Christensen saying: “I wish to pay tribute to Neil, who was an infectiously charismatic and fascinating man and was New Zealand’s only registered specialist poultry veterinarian. He was a dedicated member of the Act Party who will be immensely missed.”
The candidates are National’s Andrew Bayly, Scotty Bright of DemocracyNZ, Casey Costello of New Zealand First, independent Gordon John Dickson, Alf Metuakore Ngaro of NewZeal, Jill Annette Ovens of the Women’s Rights Party, Anna Joy Rippon of the Animal Justice Party, Vijay Sudhamalla of Vision New Zealand and Kim Turner of New Zealand Loyal.
National MP Andrew Bayly is heavily tipped to win the Port Waikato byelection. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Labour is not standing anyone in the seat, which is heavily tipped to be retained by National’s sitting MP Andrew Bayly.
On election night, of the 33,437 party votes received in the Port Waikato electorate, National received the most with 16885.
Advance voting for the byelection starts on November 13 and overseas voting starts on November 8. On byelection day on November 25, voting places will be open from 9am to 7pm.
Neil Reid is a Napier-based senior reporter who covers general news, features and sport. He joined the Herald in 2014 and has 30 years of newsroom experience. He is a previous member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
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