Digital Snapshot

By Eva U Wagner

New Zealand – Official Election Results

Disclaimer: The views expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect KAS Australia’s position. Rather, they have been selected to present an overview of the various topics and perspectives which have been dominating the public and political debate in Australia and the Pacific region.

The New Zealand Electoral Commission has published the official election results.

Labour Party50% (65 seats)
National Party25.6% (33 seats)
Green Party7.9% (10 seats)
ACT Party7.6% (10 seats)
Maori Party1.2% (2 seats)
NZ First Party2.6%

There were over 3.2 million enrolled voters, a record of just under 2 million of which voted in advance. Given the total number of party votes of just under 2.9 million, only about 900,000 voters must have cast their votes on the actual election day. Official figures of special declaration votes (including overseas votes) are expected to be made available as of 20 November.

As far as the end of life choice referendum is concerned, 65.1% voted in favour of, and 33.7% against, the End of Life Choice Act. The purpose of the Act is to give people with a terminal illness the option of legally asking for medical assistance to end their lives. They must meet the eligibility criteria to have the option. The New Zealand Parliament passed the End of Life Choice Act in 2019 and, after more than 50% of voters in the referendum supported the Act, it will come into force on 6 November 2021, that is, one year after the official result was announced. The delay is required to appoint a Registrar for Assisted Dying and to resolve outstanding issues, including the question whether it will be funded.

Regarding the cannabis referendum, 48.4% voted in favour of, and 50.7% against, the Cannabis Legalisation and Control Bill. The proposed Bill set out a way for the Government to control and regulate cannabis. This regulatory model covers how people can produce, supply, or consume cannabis. The Bill’s main purpose was to reduce cannabis-related harm to individuals, families and communities. Given that more than 50% of voters did not support the Bill, it will not come into force until further notice.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in her victory speech that the result gave the Labour Party the mandate to accelerate the country’s coronavirus response and economic recovery from it. National Party leader Judith Collins promised her party to be a robust opposition and to hold the government to account for failed promises.

The new government has been described as similar and dissimilar at the same time compared to every previous government under the mixed member proportional (MMP) system. Similar, because the government – just like every government since the introduction of the MMP system in the 1990s – has entered into a cooperation agreement with the Green Party, providing it with an enormous majority in the unicameral parliament. Dissimilar because the Labour Party is the first party since the introduction of the MMP system in the 1990s that has gained an absolute majority and could thus govern alone. Further details on the arrangements between Labour and the Greens are available from their cooperation agreement.

The new government has also been described as a diverse one. More than half (53%) of Labour’s caucus members, and nearly half (47%) of its seats in parliament are held by, women. Further, Labour’s Maori MPs have been given five seats in the cabinet. Notably, Nanaia Mahuta – a tribal member of New Zealand’s indigenous community – has been appointed as the country’s first female Minister of Foreign Affairs. She is also Minister of Local Government and Associate Minister for Maori Development. A full list of the new government’s ministers is available from the Beehive’s websites.

The National Party, together with ACT and the Maori Party, will form New Zealand’s new opposition. Judith Collins (#1) was recently confirmed as National Party leader and has since announced her new shadow cabinet. Following the former foreign minister, Gerry Brownlee’s, resignation as deputy party leader, Shane Reti (#2) will take on this role. As spokesperson for children he will also be responsible for the party’s child poverty reduction strategy. The important finance portfolio – held to date by Paul Goldsmith – was divided. Andrew Bayly (#3) will be shadow treasurer and Michael Woodhouse (#4) will be shadow finance minister. They are followed by Louise Upston (#5), who will be in charge of social development and employment, social investment, whanau ora (an indigenous health initiative) and land information. Todd McClay (#6) will be spokesperson for economic development, small business, consumer affairs and tourism. Former party leader Simon Bridges will be responsible for justice, water, Pike River re-entry (an initiative and agency tasked with the closure of a mining tragedy) and Maori-Crown relations. Judith Collins immediate predecessor, Todd Muller, has moved down to rank #19 and will be in charge of trade and export growth. A full list of the new shadow cabinet is available from the National Party’s websites.

Judith Collins commented that the new shadow cabinet reflected a wealth of talent and business experience. The National Party would be a positive opposition as long as it was not counterproductive, and bring professionalism to the opposition. The country’s economic recovery was at the forefront of everything they had to do.

In sum, voters have placed considerable power in the Labour Party, and it will be interesting to see if the new government will meet their expectations.