AKA The Specials

Labour and the Greens both need to improve their election night support by more than two percent to pick up seats through the special votes, but they have a lot to gain if they can swing it

David Farrar at Kiwiblog has got some specifics on the Specials, due out on November 22.

In brief, Labour gets the 120th seat in parliament off National if Labour gets 0.16% more than it did on election night and National gets 0.16% less. If National falls 1.62% on specials and the Greens get 1.62% more, then they get the 120th seat.

For National to lose two seats, it will take Labour doing 2.81% better and the Greens 2.10% better.

I'm not going to hazard a guess as to which way those final votes will go, except to repeat the trend from previous elections, in which the Greens have made a habit of picking up an extra MP from special votes. With 240,000 votes still being counted, a fair bit could change.

It's worth considering how much Labour and the Greens have riding on this count, however. The Greens are hoping Kennedy Graham will be their extra MP. A lecturer in international politics and international law at Canterbury University and a former diplomat, he's got the sort of CV the Greens need to expand their appeal on the centre-left of New Zealand politics. The next three years offer a huge opportunity to the Greens. With Labour weakened by the loss of Helen Clark, the brand loyalty of left-of-centre voters can't be taken for granted. Some commentators have suggested they may already be regretting ruling out a deal with National. That's nonsense. If National is serious about an inclusive approach, the Greens will be able to contribute on pieces of environmental legislation that matter to them without offering supply and confidence. They were never going to get anywhere with their social policy agenda. Instead, the Greens are free to grow their muscle – and their poll numbers – as a full-blown opposition party.

If Labour gets in another list MP, it will be Damien O'Connor, who is just the sort of politician Labour needs around the House. He's experienced, provincial, and practical. He's the outgoing Rural Affairs minister, and if Labour is going to get out the ghetto of city electorates it has driven into and re-gain support in the provinces, O'Connor is the kind of voice and face they need.

Of course he could win West Coast-Tasman back through specials, being just 975 votes behind. Harry Duynhoven could regain New Plymouth, given he's just 314 votes behind National's Jonathan Young (who's due to get married on November 22, the day the final election results will be announced, poor beggar).

Nothing's going to change the core result from election night, but the special votes could yet change the way the left shapes up over the next three years.