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Election 08: Resounding Victory For National & Key

Election 08: Key Urges NZ To Work Together - Clark Stands Down - ACT in Box Seat - Winston Is Gone & Roger Douglas Returns

Live blogged by Scoop Co-editor Alastair Thompson

1am - At the end of the night tonight the MP count is National 59 : Labour 43 : Green 8 : ACT 5 : Maori 5 : Progressive 1 :United Future 1 - in a 122 seat Parliament. The Government elect block looks likely to lose one more seat to the Greens on special votes, after which National, ACT and United will have 64 MPs - two votes over the 62 majority required. United's Peter Dunne has indicated his concerns around working with Roger Douglas already. Clearly the new opposition are also alarmed at the return of Roger.

All of which begs a few questions:
While this is an electoral landslide in MMP terms, is it a mandate for radical change?
What concessions will ACT seek and what will the National Government be willing to grant?
How will the transition to a new set of economic leaders be effected in the middle of the biggest economic crisis in several decades?

Some things we can guess at. The incoming National Government could be assisted to become unpopular very quickly with too much Roger Douglas in the frame. The key issues which the incoming Government faces - dealing with the financial crisis prudently and compassionately - are issues in which Roger Douglas's laissez fair instincts would seem to be particularly unhelpful.

Meanwhile the overwhelming media impact of the US electoral battle has left the public remarkably in the dark about what a National ACT government is likely to do. Public Private Partnerships seem likely. Employment reforms and ACC privatisation are also on the agenda.

In terms of lessons the most obvious one to this writer is that the decision of Clark and Key not to debate with the minor parties has been disastrous for MMP. How much did this media strategy decision contribute to the apparent decline in minor party vote? While it was probably the Labour and National Party leader's intention to cut back minor party influence, how well has this served the voting public? And how well has it served the Labour Party? Would Clark have appeared more attractive to the public positioned along side Fitzsimmons, Turia, Sharples and Anderton?

On current numbers 6.55% of the vote (4.21% of which was for NZ First) has not counted towards the final result. National and ACT together have a shade over 49% of the vote which is not an overwhelming mandate for change. The discarded vote means that the scale of their victory has been magnified.

That said clearly tonight is a watershed in NZ politics. John Key has a personal majority in Helensville of over 18,000 votes. He has been chosen to lead. And so the old order of things has gone, and the media will have a target rich environment in coming days as the full form of the new Government emerges from discussions between National, ACT, the Maori Party and Peter Dunne.

In this environment the Maori Party (and arguably the Greens too) can play a part to provide a National Government with some assurances that it does not need to bow to unreasonable demands from Roger Douglas, Roger Kerr and the interests that they represent. It will be a serious test of John Key's leadership how he navigates a course for National through these shoals. His challenge will be to form a Government which truly is, as he pledged, "for all New Zealanders".


12am - PM Elect John Key announces he has spoken to ACT Leader Rodney Hide and United Future's Peter Dunne and been given assurances that they will support National to form the next Government. He also said he had spoken to the Maori Party and expected to talk to them this coming week. He paid tribute to Prime Minister Helen Clark and called for the nation to work together pledging to work for "all New Zealanders".


11.32pm - Prime Minister of NZ 1999-2008 Helen Clark concedes defeat ending her speech with an announcement that she is standing down before Christmas as leader of the Labour Party. She thanks many and ends her speech with a warning that she hopes that a "bonfire of right wing" politics doesn't burn all the gains that have been made by the NZ economy during nine years of growth under the Labour Party.


10.48pm - We can welcome Roger Douglas back into a position of power tonight - if not a place at the Cabinet table as per PM Elect John Key's assurances. Roger is part of an ACT party that holds the balance of power and National ACT Government can now be declared in all but name. All that remains is a coalition agreement and just what ACT will be asking for will be interesting to watch. Winston has well and truly lost, and the man in the yellow jacket, who danced back into the public's favour (albeit dropping Crystal) is now in the box seat. The nation awaits a concession speech from Clark. Labour has been annihilated in the electorates. This is a landlslide.


9.12pm - The Scoop editorial team have decided that the gap is now too large for the left block to make up. National is likely to shortly be declared as Government elect. While late vote may claw back up to four of the 67 seats currently held by National + ACT + United, there is now no realistic prospect of the left block making up the difference. The failure of NZ First party to make 5% looks likely to be a major factor in the final result.


8.52pm - With bigger booths now coming in the headline vote percentages are finally starting to move as expected. National plus Act has lost one seat but with 66 seats is still in a commanding lead. Labour is edging towards 32% and National towards 47%. Note that as the total vote counted increases - currently at 25% - larger numeric changes are required to effect the overall percentages. NZ First's percentage has declined to 4.34% and is on the way down - it looks as if NZ First is finally gone.


8.39pm - With 15.7% of the vote counted National is still holding firm on 48.8% of the party vote. NZ First has declined a smidgen to 4.45% and the Greens have advanced to 6.33%. Labour is still languishing on 31.26%.


8.31pm - The close electorate races at present include Auckland Central (National ahead), Wellington Central (National ahead), Christchurch Central (Labour’s Brendon Burns behind), Otaki (National’s Nathan Guy ahead by 21), Waitakere (National’s Paula Bennett ahead by 25) and Rimutaka where Labour’s Christopher Hipkins is just 69 votes ahead of National. Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch Central are presumably questionable due to the early booths being small and blue, but the Rimutaka and Waitakere early results are somewhat shocking for Labour.That all these races are running so close seem to indicate a disastrous night ahead for Labour in the electorates. On a brighter note Labour's Parekura Horomia is now opening up a bit of a lead on Derek Fox in Ikaroa-Rawhiti. Nanaia Mahuta still looks like she is in trouble in Hauraki-Waikato with only an 84 vote lead over Angeline Greensill.


7.55pm - In the early count in the Maori seats the Maori Party is well ahead in all seats except Hauraki-Waikato, where Nanaia Mahuta is ahead by 100, and Ikaroa-Räwhiti where Parekura Horomia heads Derek Fox by 100 votes. In the early count NZ First looks to be dead in the water in Rimutaka (Ron Mark is running third) and Tauranga (Winston is already 1815 votes behind) and will likely need to make the 5% threshold.


7.37pm - National is off to a roaring start. With 5% of the vote counted the National Party is recording almost 50% of the vote. Early vote totals tend to favour the National Party as the first booths to report tend to be smaller rural polling places. Also interesting is the fact that NZ First with 4.63% is making a credible short at the 5% threshold. They had been written off by most commentators.


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