20 Oct 2023

Port Waikato by-election: Labour won't stand a candidate in 'unwinnable' by-election

3:40 pm on 20 October 2023
A view of Port Waikato

A view of Port Waikato. Photo: Supplied/ Nathaniel Smith, CC BY-SA 4.0

The Labour Party won't stand a candidate in the Port Waikato by-election, saying it's a traditional National Party electorate and Labour's resources will be better put towards its transition to opposition.

Labour Party president Jill Day said contesting an "unwinnable by-election takes focus and resources away from that role".

Candidate nominations for the Port Waikato by-election have now closed.

Political parties had until midday to tell the Electoral Commission who will run for the seat.

Nine candidates are standing:

BAYLY, Andrew - National Party

BRIGHT, Scotty - DemocracyNZ

COSTELLO, Casey - New Zealand First Party

DICKSON, Gordon John - Independent

NGARO, Alf Metuakore - NewZeal

OVENS, Jill Annette - Women's Rights Party

RIPPON, Anna Joy - Animal Justice Party

SUDHAMALLA, Vijay - Vision New Zealand

TURNER, Kim - New Zealand Loyal

The by-election was triggered by the death of ACT Party candidate Neil Christensen earlier this month.

The electorate's party votes were counted in the election, but votes for the local MP were not, as set out in the Electoral Act.

The Electoral Commission's chief electoral officer Karl Le Quesne extended condolences to Christensen's family at the time.

"Our thoughts are with the family at this difficult time," Le Quesne said.

"It is an unusual situation for a candidate to pass away before election day, and the Electoral Act sets out what happens next," he said.

"Party votes in the Port Waikato electorate will be counted in the General Election results. Port Waikato electorate votes will not be counted, and a by-election will be held after the election to elect a member of Parliament."

National MP Andrew Bayly, who held the seat until the election, is expected to run again and likely to win the seat. He won it during the 2020 "red wave" with nearly 40 percent of the vote compared to the 28.5 percent for Labour's Baljit Kaur.

Labour had been standing Gwendoline Keel in the seat for the 2023 election, until Christensen's death. Other candidates included Karla Buchanan for the Greens, and Casey Costello for NZ First - who is entering Parliament on NZ First's list.

Due to a rule from the pre-MMP days, whoever wins the by-election will simply have an extra seat added to Parliament. This disrupts the proportionality MMP aims for, but that's the case with all by-elections.

With Bayly having already got in as one of National's five list MPs, it would enable the party to bring in another list candidate when Bayly picks up the seat, likely allowing list-only candidate Nancy Lu to enter Parliament. However, special votes could still shift the calculation - either because of a different electorate result or a shift in the party vote.

Advance voting starts in just over three weeks and polling day is 25 November.

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