The New Zealand election has closed and the country is in a state of limbo.
As it stands, voters have ushered in a conservative coalition government led by the centre-right National Party and supported by the liberal ACT party. Except, the parties haven’t yet formed a government and may not be able to do so for several weeks.
First of all, there’s the special votes. Special votes include overseas voters and those who enrolled on election day. Although 100 per cent or “ordinary votes” have been counted, there are still about 567,000 special votes to go, or about 20 per cent of the total vote. In the past, special votes have typically favoured the left and the National Party have said they “expect we will lose at least one seat and so we will diminish” as they are counted.
Then, there’s the overhang. In a typical New Zealand parliament there are 120 seats, meaning 61 seats will be the minimum required to govern. However, because of Te Pati Maori (the left-wing Indigenous rights party) have had success in the Maori electorates (electorates in which only Maori can vote, to ensure representation in parliament) an overhang situation has occurred, meaning there will be 121 seats in parliament.
Add on to that the situation in Port Waikato. During the election campaign a candidate for the Port Waikato electorate passed away, meaning that a by-election will be held on November 25. This creates an extra seat and pushes the next parliament to 122 seats, no longer giving the National-ACT coalition a majority in government.
This means they will likely need Winston Peters and the NZ First party to push them over the line. NZ First are a centrist party with populist policies such as anti-immigration and “tough on crime” stances, and are a serious threat to National’s key policies, so National will want to avoid working with them as much as possible.
So when will we know what the next government will look like?
Well, coalition negotiations are already underway but until the special votes are counted it’s hard to say just how much National and ACT will need NZ First. And with a counting deadline of 3rd November I wouldn’t hold your breath – an answer could still be weeks away.