The great "drag race" of 2017 has come to a spluttering end. As is the way with our MMP voting system, New Zealand's day of reckoning ends with a whole lot of political commentary, not much certainty and Winston Peters going fishing.
Here are the figures. What does it all mean?
Judging by the number of balloons falling from the ceiling at the after party that'd be National. And the incumbent party did get the largest share of votes, at 46 percent. That equates to 58 seats in parliament but it's not enough to govern alone—a majority is 61 seats. National do have the additional support of David's Seymour's lone ACT seat but for the Right to take control it'll need the support of Winston Peters' New Zealand First—the man the media has all along been calling the Kingmaker (or Queenmaker).
So Winston Peters must have had a good night then?
Not really. Peters lost his electorate seat of Northland to National candidate Matt King by more than 1000 votes and New Zealand First's share of the party vote fell from the 2014 election. At current figures, NZ First have lost a couple of seats in the house ending up with nine MPs. But because of the way our MMP proportional voting system works, he's the man with all the power right now. He told media that he was going out on his boat this afternoon.
Does Winston have to go with National?
Nope. There's no obligation to go with the party with the most votes. Voices on the left are crowing that last night's results indicate a "vote for change". So take Labour's 35.8 percent plus the Greens 5.9 percent plus NZ First's share of 7.5 percent and the three parties together have enough to grab power. James Shaw laid it out in his speech at the Greens party last night, directly pleading with Winston Peters to form a coalition. Jacinda Ardern didn't go quite so far with her late-night speech to Labour supporters saying the election will be "decided by MMP". "I can't predict at this point what decisions other leaders will make." A grinning Bill English looked the most confident at his Sky City bash, telling the blue crowd, "we go into negotiations with the intention of forming a stable government."
What does Winston want?
Peters is 72. He first entered parliament in 1978. He's been here before and—at his age—he probably won't be again. He's looking for a legacy. Peters famously took seven weeks to come to a coalition deal with National in 1996. He's also cooked up coalition deals with Labour in the past. We know he has used coalition negotiations to try to nab the top job of Prime Minister before. It didn't happen, but he did persuade Jim Bolger to make him deputy prime minister. At the moment, the money is on Peters going with National and driving hard for a deal—including potentially his campaign pledge to hold a referendum on abolishing the Māori electorate seats.
National's old coalition partner the Māori Party aren't going to like that, are they?
They're goneburgers. One of the big shifts this election is the Māori Party has disappeared from Parliament. All seven Māori electorates voted for Labour. Co-leader Te Ururoa Flavell's seat of Waiariki was the biggest upset, going to sunny former weather presenter Tamati Coffey. The party managed to attract only 1.1 percent of the party vote, well short of the five percent threshold. The results have been interpreted as Māori voters becoming fed up with the way the Māori Party have snuggled up to National. But it does leave a vacuum and NZ First's desire to ditch the Māori seats could put Māori representation in parliament under even more risk.
What happened to the 'youthquake'?
It may still be on its way, but as more of a tremor than a quake. The special votes are yet to be counted. If you voted overseas, voted on polling day outside of your electorate or enrolled to vote in the last couple of weeks (after the electoral roll was printed) your vote wouldn't have made it to the tally yet. The Electoral Commission reported a surge of young voters enrolling during this late period. Last election there were 300,000 special votes and they adjusted the final result slightly to the left, so the Greens gained a seat and National lost one. According to the Electoral Commission, there are still 384,000 special votes to be counted. That's 15 percent of the total vote. We'll know the final count on October 7.
What's going to be different about the NZ government in this next term?
One major change is the absence of the Māori Party from the house. Māori representation is now the responsibility of Labour and deputy leader Kelvin Davis, as the most senior Māori member of the caucus, will be feeling the weight of that.
There are more Labour MPs. Jacinda Ardern didn't get the party votes she would have hoped for, but there's no doubt her leadership changed the fortunes of the party this election when she took the job seven weeks ago. Remember, under Andrew Little the party was polling just 23 percent. In the 2014 election Labour won 25 percent of the party vote. That's gone up this time by over 10 percent and there will be 13 more Labour MPs in the House.
Some of those Labour gains have come at the expense of the Green Party. The Greens had 14 seats last term, this time they've secured just seven. However, they'll be relieved about that. For a while following Metiria Turei's resignation it looked like the Greens would struggle to make it into parliament at all. At number seven on the list, Chlöe Swarbrick, 23, just scrapes in with a new job. She's the youngest MP in 42 years. And it's not out of the realm of possibility that the Greens will negotiate themselves into a position of power with National, although James Shaw told TVNZ's Q+A it was "highly, highly, highly unlikely".
So lots of dealing still to go. When will we know the result for sure?