19 Oct 2017

Election17: A brief history of quite a long time

3:39 pm on 19 October 2017

It's been three-and-a-half weeks since Election Day but boy, does it feel a lot longer.

If you've forgotten the actual election results, have blissfully tuned out all talk of coalition negotiations, or just want to re-live the whole experience, here's what's happened since Election Day.

Follow RNZ's live coverage and find out what you need to know.

Winston Peters after meeting 12/10/17

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

11 September: Advance voting opens, with nearly 500 advance polling stations to choose from - including supermarkets and shopping malls for the first time. About 39,500 eager beavers vote on the first day and over the next two weeks a record 1.2 million people will cast early votes.

Election Day, 23 September: About 1.4 million New Zealanders (and their dogs) head to polling stations around the country, in a mass display of democracy complete with sausage sizzles and bake sales. This is as simple as things will get for weeks.

Bill English and Jacinda Ardern.

Bill English and Jacinda Ardern on election night Photo: AFP

Election Night: Despite a big turn-around in the Labour Party's fortunes, lifted on a tide of Jacindamania, National still takes 46 percent of the preliminary vote, with Labour on 36 percent, the Greens on 6 percent and New Zealand First taking 7.5 percent. The Māori Party is out. United Future is out. The Opportunities Party was never in. ACT clings on in Epsom.

The day after the night before, 24 September: Press conferences galore, starting with Winston Peters on the foreshore in Russell, chiding and joking with reporters like a political Jekyll and Hide. He bats away most questions, confirming only that he will stick to the timetable he announced prior to the election, of waiting for the special votes to be counted before he opens negotiations and then announcing who he will strike a deal with someone by Writ Day (12 October).

Winston Peters speaks to reporters on Russell's waterfront

Winston Peters was ebullient in a news conference the morning after the election. Photo: RNZ / Screengrab

26 September: While they wait for the special votes, and a call from Winston, National, Labour and the Greens hold their first post-election caucus meetings and begin assembling negotiation teams. A disappointed David Seymour gets the call from National that it won't be looking for a deal with ACT and its one seat.

27 September: Winston Peters arrives in Wellington for New Zealand First's caucus meeting. He ignores waiting media at the airport before assembling them later that day for a lengthy tirade disguised as a press conference.

28 September - 7 October: It all gets a bit boring. Winston doesn't return Bill English's messages. Peter Dunne predicts "blood on the floor" no matter who New Zealand First decides to strike a deal with. In the absence of anything else to talk about, commentators start speculating about a National-Green coalition deal - the so-called 'teal deal' - as an alternative to New Zealand First. This is dismissed by a former Green MP as having a snowball's chance on a globally-warmed planet.

7 October: The long-awaited 446,000 special votes are counted and the final election result announced. National loses two seats, with Labour and the Greens picking up one each. The various coalition options remain unchanged.

National Party leader Bill English at a news conference at Lake Hayes near Queenstown.

Bill English gave a standup after the special vote count was announced at a relatively remote South Island lake. Photo: RNZ / Peter Newport

8 October: The coalition negotiation teams assemble for the first day of talks. After each meeting between various parties, expectant gallery reporters get told it "went fine", or that it was "fine", or that the talks were "excellent" and "productive".

9-10 October: Rinse and repeat. New Zealand First hosts several rounds of talks each day with both Labour and National, while Labour and the Greens also continue to meet. Mr Peters tells gallery reporters his party is still on track to make a decision by 12 October (famous last words).

11 October: Mr Peters says that, actually, no, the party's decision will not be announced the next day (12 October), and also will not say whether the party's board will convene that night.

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Meetings, meetings meetings for the leaders Photo: RNZ

12-13 October: Face-to-face coalition talks wrap. Mr Peters says the board may not be able to meet for several days but promises the country will know the make-up of the new government by the end of the following week. Faced with another waiting period, political journalists turn their attention to finding out who sits on this mysterious New Zealand First board.

16 October: The New Zealand First board and caucus assemble in Wellington to discuss the possible coalition offers. Bill English tells RNZ there have been further telephone calls over the weekend with New Zealand First to clarify policy positions, but no potential ministerial positions have been discussed. Jacinda Ardern says the same thing.

17 October: Following on from his blood-on-the-floor prediction, Peter Dunne turns the rhetoric up a notch with a new prediction that whatever government is formed won't last a full term because of New Zealand First's "inbuilt self-destruct" mechanism. New Zealand First's board completes a second day of discussions and heads home, leaving it to the party's caucus to keep talking. Winston Peters holds one-on-one meetings with Jacinda Ardern and Bill English.

18 October: The New Zealand First caucus meets. The country waits. Then New Zealand First releases a statement explaining it would be in a position the following day to make a statement on the result of negotiations.

19 October: It's decision day, with Mr Peters poised to reveal which party he will support. No-one seems to know when exactly. National party leader Bill English said he was "satisfied" with a potential agreement with New Zealand First. He said he still has "no indication" of who Mr Peters will side with and it's understood Labour is in a similar position. A former MP tells RNZ the likely coalition partner is Labour but that no matter who New Zealand First joins the next government will be "fractious and it won't last."

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