6 Nov 2020

Election 2020: Special votes could make National Party loss worse

9:59 am on 6 November 2020

National's election fortunes could go from bad to worse when the results from the almost 500,000 special votes are revealed today.

National Party leader Judith Collins and regional development and West Coast issues spokesperson Maureen Pugh campaigning in the West Coast on 25 September, 2020.

National Party leader Judith Collins, left, and Maureen Pugh who may lose her place in Parliament when the final results are announced. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Historically these votes have favoured the left which could see National's caucus shrink and Labour's grow further.

Today's results will also confirm whether the Māori Party will return to Parliament and if the Green Party has secured its first electorate win in more than 20 years.

A red wave swept through the National Party on election night and today's results will confirm who Judith Collins has left.

"I've learnt over the years, don't worry about things I can't control, and it's out of my hands, but the National Party will obviously accept what we receive and we'll do so in the best possible way that people would expect from us," she said.

Collins's approach isn't likely to have calmed Matt King's nerves.

The National MP defeated Labour's Willow-Jean Prime in Northland by only 742 votes on election night.

But if the special votes turn his seat red, King will be out of Parliament.

"The way things have played out in this election nothing is safe, no seat is safe. So yeah, I'm waiting and hoping for a good outcome," he said.

His colleague, Maureen Pugh, will also be hoping for a good outcome.

On election night, she was the last MP to make it in on the party list and would be the first out.

For King the "red tsunami" that has seen him lose so many colleagues defies logic.

"I've said goodbye to really good MPs from the National side who did lots of work in their electorates and were well known, and they've been beaten by no-name first-up candidates," he said.

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Matt King says: "No seat is safe." Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Whangārei on a knife-edge

The tightest race is in Whangārei - with National's Shane Reti ahead of Labour's Emily Henderson by just over 160 votes.

He will return to Parliament even if he loses the seat, with a safe spot on National's list.

"It will be a challenge. I'm very proud to be the victor on the night, but I do understand that it's a slim margin," Reti said.

Henderson said it's been a long few weeks waiting to see if she'll be joining Labour's largest-ever caucus.

"It's an out-of-body experience. It's been surreal to think that we've got this close in Whangārei. More lately it's been like being about a week and a half overdue with a baby - just really wanting a result no matter what it is," she said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will be keeping a close eye on the seat too.

"I don't want to make any predictions there. Of course it's not a seat we necessarily expected to take, but a very strong candidate, so only time will tell," she said.

Much at stake for Māori Party

Waiariki is another electorate to watch with just 400 votes separating the frontrunners.

If Rawiri Waititi can retain his lead over Labour's Tamati Coffey - the Māori Party will secure its return to Parliament.

"I think we've sent a strong message to the Māori members of parliament, in those Māori seat that there is an independent, a strong, true Māori voice keeping them accountable to ensure that they deliver as they campaigned on to our people," he said.

The Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi and Labour's Tamati Coffey.

Disappointment looms for either Rawiri Waititi, left, or Tamati Coffey. Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui / Mei Heron

Auckland Central success for Swarbrick on the line

Chlöe Swarbrick's success in Auckland Central was one of the surprises on election night.

Despite public polls showing she was trailing behind in third place, Swarbrick took the seat for the Greens by almost 500 votes.

If today's results confirm that win, she will be the first Green MP to have won an electorate since 1999.

"There's every potential that anything can happen, but I also think that we need to extrapolate based on how things have landed so far," she said.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Swarbrick told Morning Report she had already started work in the electorate and hoped to keep the win.

"I've constantly said we're not going to count those chickens before they hatch but you'll also know those special votes do tend to skew towards progressive candidates and progressive parties.

"I also think it's important that people in these three weeks, that we have been waiting for these specials to come through, are represented. Otherwise there would have been a huge number of constituency cases falling through the gap.

"I am just below 500 votes ahead at present, that definitely is in the spectrum of greater safer zone than those who right now are looking down the barrel of a margin of only 100 or so votes ahead."

She said regardless of the outcome, she would honour the result "which is a lot more than can be said for other jurisdictions around the world right now".

Not only was the party optimistic about keeping its present wins, Swarbrick said they were also hoping to have environmental activist Steve Abel onboard.

"What we are hoping for is those specials potentially end up delivering us Steve Abel."

Abel has been protesting the removal of trees in Avondale recently.

Hopes for cannabis vote

The final results from the recreational cannabis and euthanasia referenda will also be confirmed today.

While the End of Life Choice Bill passed with a strong margin according to the preliminary results, the cannabis referendum failed to get across the line.

But Swarbrick hopes that might change.

"There has to be about 67 percent votes in favour on those specials and I've said, of course, you know, it is an uphill battle. But nonetheless it currently sits within the realm of plausibility," she says.

The final election and referenda results will be released at 2pm.

Until then, it'll be a nervous wait for candidates.

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