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Chinese representation in Parliament likely limited to a single lawmaker

23:18 3/11/2023
Chinese candidates Election 2023

National's Carlos Cheung (centre) has managed to win a seat in Parliament, while Labour's Naisi Chen (left) and National's Nancy Lu (right) appear to have missed the cut. Photo: Supplied

Only one MP of Chinese descent will likely represent the community in Parliament over the next three years.

National Party candidate Carlos Cheung comfortably won Auckland's Mt Roskill electorate after special votes were counted, defeating popular Labour MP Michael Wood by 1,565 votes.

In securing the Labour stronghold, Cheung becomes the second Chinese electorate MP after Pansy Wong, who won the newly formed Botany electorate in 2008.

Meanwhile, two other Chinese candidates who were seeking to enter Parliament - Nancy Lu, ranked 20th on National's party list, and Labour's Naisi Chen, ranked 33rd - didn't make the cut.

The National Party lost two seats after special votes were counted, winning a total of 48 seats.

Te Pāti Māori gained two new seats, winning a total of six seats.

The Green Party gained one more seat, winning a total of 15.

The number of seats for Labour, ACT and New Zealand First remained unchanged at 34, 11 and eight, respectively.

Cheung said he felt "more relieved" now that the results had been confirmed, and he would be focusing on making plans to deliver on his campaign promises. He pledged to make law and order a priority.

"I know that I have got a bigger responsibility now and I just need to work hard and serve whole-heartly," he said.

Carlos Cheung, national party

Carlos Cheung is the sole MP of Chinese descent in Parliament over the next three years. Photo: RNZ / Blessen Tom

Cheung put his victory down to National's policies targeting the issues that people in his electorate were most concerned about. He also credits his involvement with the community over the past seven years, including his clean-up work after Cyclone Gabrielle, as well as work for refugees and sports programmes.

"(Voters) know that I am not that type of person who comes out before the election and then disappears. … They know that I do have a heart to serve," he said, adding that he was appreciative of their trust and support. "I really want to use myself as an example or a steppingstone for more Asians to be involved in politics."

Lu, who was not included on National's list, said she was not surprised about the results and she was prepared for any outcome.

National has indicated it would ask for a recount in Nelson and Mt Albert, and Lu said, given there was also a by-election in Port Waikato on 25 November, she was still waiting to see the final results.

She said she thoroughly enjoyed the campaign. Running for the second time, she said she felt improvement had been made in all aspects.

"I think we have done a lot and done a good job, especially in terms of mobilizing the Chinese community," Lu said.

Nancy Lu, National Party

National's Nancy Lu doesn't look likely to have made the cut after final results are announced in the 2023 election. Photo: supplied

Lu said that being able to communicate directly with people either face to face or by phone or email, and hearing what everyone thinks and needs makes her feel "very satisfied" and gives her "a sense of responsibility".

"Despite the results, I'm happy for every candidate who successfully enters Parliament, because everyone deserves it and everyone has worked hard," she said.

"What I want to say to the Chinese community is that I appreciate it being so united and active this time," she said. "No matter which party they chose, they were so united and enthusiastic, and actively participated in voting. I heard that many people were calling on their family members and friends to go and vote."

Serving as an MP since 2020, Chen said she was really surprised about the results, and felt sorry for her colleagues Kelvin Davis and Peeni Henare for losing their electorate seats. National's loss of two seats also surprised her.

Chen said she didn't feel disappointed that she didn't make the cut, as the results were not too different from the preliminary figures. However, she was concerned about the formation of the incoming government.

"We as Labour are no long in a position to form a government and it's still up to National and I think now it's seeing what kind of influence Winston Peters and New Zealand First has in the new government," she said.

"From a migrant community point of view, I'm still very concerned about some of the things that I've heard in the policies that they will put out," Chen said.

"On the current results … there is still only one Chinese MP in Parliament, which is always disappointing to see," she said. "I think there is one Indian in Labour and one Indian in ACT. I think the total Asian seats are still very low and it's disappointing to see that."

Former Labour list MP Naisi Chen

Outgoing MP Naisi Chen is considering going overseas to gain international experience. Photo: RNZ / Maree Mahony

Chen said the past three years had been a learning curve for her, and she was proud of the achievements she managed to accomplish.

She was considering going overseas so that she could learn more about politics and the wider world, coming back with broader experience to serve New Zealand better.

"Thanks so much for everyone's support in the last three years. Though the results are not ideal for me, I know there is still a lot to look forward to in the future. Hopefully, we as a community can be taken seriously by the new government," she said.

"I hope there will be more Chinese in Parliament, and I can come back in three years, serving New Zealand with more knowledge and a better understanding of the world."

The total number of votes cast was 2,883,412, and turnout of people who were enrolled to vote was 78.2 percent. Turnout in the Māori electorates was 68%.

The number of special votes was 603,257, or 20.9 percent of total votes cast, including 78,030 overseas votes. The final enrolment rate was 94.7 percent, slightly higher than the previous two elections.

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