Winston Peters holds the key to the next government

National loses two seats, Te Pati Maori gains two and Greens pick up one

Venkat Raman
Auckland, November 3, 2023

New Zealand voters have denied National Party Leader Christopher Luxon the luxury of forming a two-party coalition government as the final results declared by the Electoral Commission have reduced his Party’s total number of seats to 48.

With the ACT Party maintaining its position with 11 seats, Mr Luxon will be short of three seats in the next Parliament which will have 122 seats, going up to 123 later this month.

The Parties in Parliament

These results mean just one thing: New Zealand First must necessarily be a part of the next government with a Confidence and Supply Agreement.

The Party position as of today is as follows: National 48 seats; ACT 11; New Zealand First Eight; Labour 34; Greens 15 and Te Pati Maori Six.

The Port Waikato by-election on November 25, 2023 is expected to secure an electoral seat for Andrew Bayly of National and is likely to change the composition of seats in Parliament.

National has 43 electoral seats and five Party (List) seats, the latter claimed by Nicola Willis, Paul Goldsmith, Melissa Lee, Gerry Brownlee and Andrew Bayly.

Mr Bayly’s win at Port Waikato is expected to bring in Nancy Lu who is next on the List.

It would be a long road ahead for Siva Kilari, a candidate of Indian origin, who stood for National at Manurewa since there are four candidates above him on the List- Agnes Loheni (List), Emma Chatterton (Remutaka), James Christmas (List) and Dale Aotea Stephens (Christchurch Central).

The next Government

The composition of the new coalition government is still a matter of conjecture but if the past is of any indication, Mr Peters will drive some hard bargains, not only to secure at least two cabinet positions (one for himself and the other for Shane Jones) but also a commitment on policies.

Mr Peters is known for his penchant for foreign affairs, which would put the position of National Party Spokesperson Gerry Brownlee into jeopardy. Party insiders assume that Mr Brownlee will take up the role of the Speaker of the House and hence there is no likelihood of a dispute. Mr Jones could pick up Regional Development or a role that sees him in the heart of Northland.

That leaves the ACT Party with 11 MPs. Leader David Seymour and his Deputy Brooke van Velden both hold electoral seats (Epsom and Tamaki) and hence would bargain for their slice of the cake. Mr Seymour would be a strong contender for the post of Deputy Prime Minister (along with Mr Peters), while Ms van Velden could become Building and Construction Minister and take up the role of Associate Minister for Foreign Affairs or Trade, both of which were her portfolios as a Member of the outgoing Parliament.

Mr Luxon would have to make compromises and perhaps sacrifice some portfolios in his own interest. There would be very little elbow room for him to manoeuvre if he is keen to form the next government without protracted discussions and bargains. The vagaries of the MMP system are such that smaller parties rule the roost and compromises by the majority Party are inevitable.

The country has seen Helen Clark, John Key and Jacinda Ardern strike such compromises, and Mr Luxon, overseeing a Party with fewer seats than his National Party predecessor John Key, would have little choice than to keep Mr Peters and Mr Seymour happy.

According to the Electoral Commission, the number of seats in the 54th Parliament will be 122 (likely to rise to 123 after the byelection in Port Waikato). Either way, the National-Act coalition alone will not work.

Four significant changes

The final results have seen four changes since the preliminary results were declared on October 14. They are (1) Labour candidate Rachel Boyack has won Nelson with a majority of 29 votes over the National candidate Blair Cameron (2) Labour candidate Phil Twyford has won Te Atatū with a majority of 131 votes over the National candidate Angee Nicholas (3) Te Pāti Māori candidate Takutai Tarsh Kemp has won Tāmaki Makaurau with a majority of four votes over the Labour candidate Peeni Henare (4) Te Pāti Māori candidate Mariameno Kapa-Kingi has won Te Tai Tokerau with a majority of 517 votes over the Labour candidate Kelvin Davis.

The major losses include two Labour Party candidates: Michael Wood in Mt Roskill who lost to National’s Carlos Cheung with a margin of 1565 votes and Dr Deborah Russell who lost her New Lynn seat to National’s Paulo Garcia with a margin of 1013 votes.

In Mt Albert, National’s Melissa Lee, who lost to Labour’s Helen White with a margin of 20 votes, has said that she would call for a judicial recount. In Tamaki Makarau, Labour’s Peeni Henare, who lost to Takutai Tarsh Kemp with a margin of four votes is also expected to call for a judicial recount. There have been reversals of results in the past recounting of votes in some constituencies.

Electorate candidates must apply to a District Court Judge for a recount within three days of the announcement of results with a payment of $1022.22 and the judge must start the recount within three days of receiving the application and follow the set procedures.

The Election in Numbers

According to the Electoral Commission, the total number of votes cast in the general election 2023 was 2,883,412. There were 603,257 special votes, accounting for 20.9% of the total votes (compared with 17% in the 2020 and 2017 general elections). The turnout was 78.2% (down from 82.2% in 2020 and 79.8% in 2017. The final enrolment rate was 94.7% (94.1% in 2020 and 92.4% in 2017). Unlike in Australia, there is no penalty for not voting, although it is mandatory to be enrolled as a voter.

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