With the specials about to be announced, what are the ramifications for the new government? And what's likely to happen next?

Won't tomorrow be fun? It's like election day all over again. Except National may not enjoy this one as much as two weeks ago.

Yes, the specials are confirmed tomorrow and the final shape of parliament will be known. Plus, the small matter of our electoral system will be decided.

The assumed wisdom has been the retention of MMP, the loss of one National seat to the Greens, and little change in the electorates. That's probably not far wrong, but the electorates could be more interesting that anticipated.

The New Zealand Herald beat me to the punch this morning with its report that Paula Bennett may be about to lose Waitakere. It makes no difference to the ultimate make up of parliament because it's the electorate vote, not the party vote that's being altered. But it would be a slap for Bennett and National.

And the Herald's inside word on the count is in line with Labour's hopes. I wondered whether they may be just that - hopes. There were only just over 3400 specials in Waitakere, so not a lot of room for Carmel Sepuloni to make up the ground. Bennett was 349 votes ahead.

But I understand that if the swing on the night was matched in the specials, that margin would be cut to around 70. So Labour was wondering what sort of folk were out of the seat on the day and who had signed up late. It was the latter where they were pinning their hopes. Labour organisers out west had encouraged quite a few folk onto the roll in the final week or two before the election and were hoping that would pay off.

Then, of course, there was the 2-for-1 argument that Sepuloni could use, given that Bennett would remain in parliament via National's list.

It's interesting, Bennett has a high profile round the country and many assume that's all good. But in fact what little polling I've seen suggests she's quite a divisive figure. With middle-class women especially, the fact she cut the Training Incentive Allowance, the very fund she used to get ahead as a solo mum, goes down very badly indeed.

But what about the 6,600 specials in Auckland Central? That's a lot of room for change, but the assumption is that Nikki Kaye has done enough. That's unlikely to change.

And the smart money's on Brendon Burns hanging onto Christchurch Central. While having your majority slashed is hardly a ringing endorsement, most of those not in the electorate are likely to be those with less money or who are less impressed with the handling of the rebuild, ie Labour voters.

That would mean Rajen Prasad and Raymond Huo losing out. Come the first by-election do they get hammered like Judith Tizard did, with the 'vote for X, get Tizard' line David Farrar and National ran in Mt Albert? So do they hang around or step aside, like Martin Gallagher and others did, to allow the popular Kelvin David back in? And would Davis even want it? I understand he's moving on with his life. The next on the list would be Rick Barker, and that really would be another Tizard-type opportunity for National.

(But then Paul Quinn is currently in the Tizard/Prasad slot for National, with Aaron Gilmore set to replace him should National's party vote slip thanks to the specials. So the argument can go both ways, if it comes to that!)

And what way were Prasad and Huo going to vote in the Labour leadership? Do the new MPs have different views?

The only other one I'll be watching is Waimakariri - with fewer than 2500 specials, it's unlikely Clayton Cosgrove can overcome his 395 vote deficit, but it'll be interesting to see how close it ends up.

The party vote, as always, has greater implications. At the moment National has 60 seats in a 121 seat parliament. With either United Future or ACT or the Maori Party it has a majority. If it falls to 59, then it needs both United Future and ACT, or the Maori Party, to get its majority.

Not hugely significant, you may say (apart from bringing into parliament the Green's Mojo Mathers, who would be the first deaf MP. But it does give that bit more power to ACT and United Future. Especially in those moments when Peter Dunne remembers his Labour roots, or feels pressure from the Christian remnants or hunin'fishin' crows in his party, it could get interesting.

Anything foreshore & seabed-ish would see each of those minor parties pulling in different directions. And in an example I've mentioned before, a drop to 59 for National tomorrow should see the end of its plan to have repeat parents on the DPB go back to work when their youngest child turns one.

Both the Maori Party and United Future have said they'll vote against that part of the reform and National and ACT alone won't get it passed. The only remaining question is whether New Zealand First might vote for it. I imagine over the course opf this term other legislation will appear that will cause similar consternations. Maybe the Maori Party and United Future will push National on its prison policies -- more rehab, more money for education programmes, for example.

As for the Maori Party, well they've been canny holding hui until after the specials are counted. If National loses that seat, the Maori Party's utility grows. How much easier for National to only have to get them on side than two parties? We'll see, but that should strengthen its negotiating hand a smidge.

There are other possible outcomes of course, but I won't go on. If you want to speculate on those -- or discuss the results when they come out on Saturday, dive into the comments.

The point of all this, however, is that 59 spreads the power a littler thinner and makes governing distinctly more wrinkly than 60, which, I suspect, is what voters en masse wanted.

Comments (14)

by Phil Lyth on December 09, 2011
Phil Lyth

Remember that the 3,413 special votes reported as 'Waitakere' are those cast in that electorate. Many will be for Waitakere, but there will be good numbers for Helensville, Te Atatu, New Lynn, and in dwindling numbers for furhter away electorates. Probably even a dozen special votes cast in Waitakere for the Invercargill electorate.

So we have to wait another 18 hours to find out how many specials were cast for (and allowed) the Waitakere candidates.

by Daniel Laird on December 09, 2011
Daniel Laird

I've been wondering since the election, are there any National electorate MPs that you could see splitting with the party, to form a new right wing party, or perhaps to join the Conservatives?

 

I assume there wouldn't be any danger of them bringing down the government, but perhaps voting against them over a particular issue?

 

There's been much talk of a new right party, and having an anchor seat seems to be the way to go.

by mudfish on December 09, 2011
mudfish

Surprised how everyone's giving such press to the chance of an extra Green MP. You'll have to get Graeme for the real numbers/chances but I made it 59.7 National, 13.0 green and 8.5 NZ First, so there might be more chance of 9 NZ Firsters than 14 Greens.

by Tim Watkin on December 09, 2011
Tim Watkin

Mudfish, I haven't done the maths and run it through the system, but others have. I'm sure Graeme will be along any moment, but he's written on his own blog that using the trends from 2008 and the turnout from this year (I think), he gives the Greens one and takes one off National. DPF and Conor Roberts were together doing the sums on election night and estimated the same thing.

by Tim Watkin on December 09, 2011
Tim Watkin

Daniel, at first glance no. The John Key factor is so dominant in National and there's so little public will for anything to the right of it, that I can't see where the momentum would come from.

Without having given it much thought, I can think of three reasons in NZ for new parties being started: Electoral losses/desperation (eg United), ambition/ego (NZ First), policy disputes (New Labour). There may be more.

None look to apply to National at this stage – they've just won an election with an increased percentage, they're not doing anything that divisive, and there's no individual of particular ambition or charisma. Rather, the second tier are positioning themselves for power within the party after Key goes. And that could be a long game.

Consider why Simon Power walked away even though he was one of the heirs apparent. Key gets another three years, maybe six. He loses, then Labour gets a term or three. It could be a decade before there's a National PM other than Key. Now maybe that's an argument for one or more of them finding another vehicle, but building a new party is a long-term game as well. But who? Can't see anyone in Nat's ranks willing or able.

by mudfish on December 09, 2011
mudfish

Is there a steely glint in Stephen Joyce's eye? End of 2013 or so?

by Daniel Laird on December 10, 2011
Daniel Laird

Thanks Tim.

I asked because I don't know much about the current batch of National MPs. Anyway, for the record, my reasoning went along these lines:

 

National, having won their second term, and feeling unsure about their prospects of a third, decide to push through as much change as they can, to the increasing dislike of the public. An electorate MP, maybe worried about not returning in 2014, stakes their opposition to a particularly unpopular policy, and in such a tight parliament, prevents its passage.

 

Their position within National would hardly be tenable after such a move, so they form their own party, or join the Conservatives. Of course it's hard to see such an MP joining the Conservatives to play second fiddle to Colin Craig, so the lack of an ambitious or charismatic MP who could lead a party is an issue, as you point out.

 

But while there doesn't seem to be pressure within National for a split, there does seem to be room in the NZ political space for a new right party (maybe not further right, just... other right). The fact that the Conservatives gained 2.7%, before specials, despite standing next to no chance of getting in, suggests there is real interest in a non-national, centrish-right party.

 

Anyway, that was the scenario in my head. I shall defer to your wisdom on the subject, but if just such a thing happens, at least I'll be able to point at this post and claim to be some kind of political wizard.

by HIlary Stace on December 10, 2011
HIlary Stace

After specials National's share of the vote is down to 47.3% so you can update your poll of polls on the side of the Pundit page now.

by mudfish on December 10, 2011
mudfish

Why do so many Green voters consistently cast special votes? Changes were very consistent with Graeme Edgeler's "crude" assessment.

Looks like recounts are on the cards for a couple of seats

by Tim Watkin on December 10, 2011
Tim Watkin

Mud, good on you for putting yourself on the line. Either a wizard or fool you will be! No, I'm teasing. That is a possible scenario, but I think unlikely. Some of National's crop will disappear as the tide goes out, but there are none there I can see throwing their toys out. But let's wait and see.

And don't forget, National can arrange a certain amount of 'staged rebellion', such as Nikki Kaye's Key-approved protest at mining on conservation land for the sake of her Auckland Central vote.

As for Joyce, the question is whether he wants it or is happy to be this generation's Bill Birch. And whether he wants it more than Judith Collins. Or Gerry Brownlee.

by Tim Watkin on December 10, 2011
Tim Watkin

And it seems the absent Labour vote wasn't enough to counter the swing to National in Chc. Burns will be gutted. A casualty of the quake.

by alexb on December 11, 2011
alexb

Re Daniel - I had thought on election night that Banks would join the conservatives and use the voter base to turn it into a 5% coalition partner with the Nats in 2014. Colin Craig seems pretty uninterested, but perhaps he would be more keen to have a National MP join his party to be a co-leader, perhaps Judith Collins? In my view it is unfortunate but I can definately see that partnership breaking the threshold.

by Ben Curran on December 11, 2011
Ben Curran

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but out of those 59 MP's, doesn't National have to come up with a speaker of the house? Sure, they could nominate someone from across the way (I think Labour nominated someone from National a while ago), but anyone on the other side of the house would have to be nuts to take it at the moment. And I've always been under the impression that the speaker was required to vote for the status quo in the case of a tied vote. Which would mean that it would be possible to have National/Act/UF on 60 votes in a 121 seat parliament if a particular issue got everyone wound up enough (i.e. the Maori party weren't supporting it).

Just a wondering if I have that right.

by Graeme Edgeler on December 12, 2011
Graeme Edgeler

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but out of those 59 MP's, doesn't National have to come up with a speaker of the house?

They do have to elect a speaker, but that person gets to vote on every piece of legislation, just like every other MP.

I've always been under the impression that the speaker was required to vote for the status quo in the case of a tied vote.

After we introduced MMP, we abolished the Speaker's tie-breaking vote and gave them a normal vote instead. A tied vote is now lost.*

*except on a vote that a clause or part stand part in the Committee of the Whole.

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