By Chris Whitworth and James Murray
The Prime Minister has arrived to a rapturous reception at Auckland’s Sky City Convention Centre as National win the 2011 election with a clear majority.
With all but a handful of votes to be counted National have 48 percent of the party vote and will return to Parliament with 60 seats.
They will likely form a coalition with ACT, the Maori Party and United future – which would control 65 seats in the house.
On the left wing Labour took 27.1 percent of the vote and 34 seats and will likely form a partnership with a resurgent NZ First and record-breaking Green Party. Together they will take 55 seats in Parliament.
Both leaders have ruled out working with Hone Harawira’s Mana Party in the past, so it is unsure how they will align.
Mr Key drove from his Parnell home and arrived at Sky City at about 11:20pm.
Accompanied by wife Bronagh he told 3 News reporter “it’s a great night, I’m delighted”.
He was not “entirely surprised Winston is back”, and pointed out he would have taken votes from Labour rather than National.
Mr Key arrived to the sound of African drums into a room packed with blue balloons, it was not long before he was covered in multi-coloured party streamers.
As he took the stage to address supporters he was grinning from ear to ear as a chant of “three more years went up”.
“What a fabulous night to be supporting the New Zealand National Party,” he said.
“I always said it would be tight, and I was right. More people voted national today then three years ago and I want to thank every one of you.
“Tonight New Zealand has voted for a brighter future and there will be a brighter future.”
Mr Key said New Zealand had had its fair share of challenges over the past 15 months.
“As a country we have risen to them. We have shown that in the worst of times you see the best of New Zealanders.”
Mr Key vowed to lead the country in the interests of all New Zealanders and said he would again work together with the Maori Party.
Formal agreements were also being forged with United Future’s Peter Dunne and the ACT Party.
Finishing off his speech Mr Key hinted at a night of revelry ahead.
“And I can tell you this, I’m just about to head off for something just a little bit stronger than a cup of tea.”
Earlier tonight Labour leader Phil Goff spoke to supporters saying he had rung Prime Minister John Key to concede. He said he would discuss his future as Labour leader with caucus.
He congratulated new Labour MPs including Andrew Little, David Clark and Megan Woods.
There were loud cheers for Damien O'Connor who won back the West Coast seat - "where Labour began", exclaimed Mr Goff.
He said goodbye to Kelvin Davis and Stuart Nash - but said the two young politicians had a bright future.
"We are members of a great political party, for 95 years Labour has helped shape a country that we are proud of as New Zealanders," he said. "Our time will come again... we are a bit bloodied but not defeated. And we are not defeated because the things we believe in are the things worth fighting for."
Earlier in the evening it was feared the Labour Party may face its worst ever defeat.
“This is way worse than Labour would have ever dared hope. Let's look at this in a historical perspective: Their first election was in 1919 - they got over 26 percent of the vote. I am looking at 25.8 percent - that would make it the worst result in Labour's history,” says political analyst Chris Trotter on TV3’s Decision 11.
Senior Labour Party MP David Parker denied the party was heading for a rout.
“Well that's rubbish a rout is what you call what happened to National in 2002 when under Bill English they got 21 percent and ACT got six or seven percent - so they had about 28 percent on that side of the house.
“Here if you add what Labour, the Greens and NZ First have got... you have between 40 to 45 percent against National.”
He stopped short of saying Labour would be able to form a Government though.
National’s traditional coalition partner ACT won in Epsom meaning John Banks has returned to Parliament. Party Leader Don Brash has stepped down from his role, and it is likely Mr Banks will be the new party leader.
In other major electorates, Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples has won in Tamaki Makaurau, the Waimakariri electorate flipped from red to blue with Kate Wilkinson winning by 395, Nikki Kaye got home in Auckland Central and Paula Bennett fought off a tough challenge from Carmel Sepuloni in Waitakere.
In Christchurch Central 100 percent of the vote has been counted and it is a tie between Labour's Brendon Burns and National's Nicky Wagner. This is a traditionally strong Labour seat and National Campaign manager Steven Joyce said earlier that the Government's handling of the Christchurch earthquake has seen them surge in Canterbury.
Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia has admitted a poor showing for the Maori Party who are currently only bringing in 3 seats.
This is the final make up of Parliament seat-wise.
National - 60
Labour - 34
Green - 13
NZ First - 8
Maori - 3
ACT - 1
Mana - 1
United Future - 1
This would put a right wing coalition government on 66 seats if the Maori Party side with them and the left wing parties on 55 seats.
3 News Political Editor Duncan Garner says it is possible for National to hold the balance of power without the Maori Party, but it would be a slender majority.
"National are at 61 seats at the moment and the reason why John Banks in Epsom and United Future in Ohariu became so vital is this, it gets John Key across the line. We've added ACT and now we'll add United Future - that there is your coalition government, that put's them in to power, and it means that the Maori Party don't become the balance of power under that scenario," he says.
"But it doesn't give them much of a buffer over that line - you have the Greens over here to the Labour Party. I know Winston Peters says he's going to be in oppostion and let's just say he's going to vote against John Key, well that should be up here on a number of times. So what you're seeing there is that the Nats are getting there but not hugely - not a huge buff across the line."
Tonight saw the end of an election campaign that started with a fizz and ended with a bang.
National launched their campaign three days later, focusing on 'Brand Key', with his face on every billboard above the slogan: “Building a brighter future”.
National seemed untouchable when the first election poll was released, polling at 53.5 percent and on course to govern alone. Meanwhile, Labour was trailing on 30.3 percent.
The TVNZ leaders’ debate marked the first time either candidate had locked horns and was a chance for Mr Goff to redirect momentum.
The fiery exchange saw Mr Goff on the offensive, attacking National’s broken election promise over GST, the high cost of living and the party's stance on troops in Afghanistan.
Mr Goff proved there was still some fight in the election with political pundits giving him first blood in the series of debates.
The Press debate later that week saw Mr Key regain his footing, attacking Mr Goff's inability to produce figures from Labour's economic policy, and famously use the phrase: “Show me the money”.
Labour was forced to front and released the finance plan for their election promises two days later.
It proposed extra short-term borrowing to the tune of $15.6 billion and promised to return New Zealand’s budget to surplus in the same time – if not quicker – than National.
Confusion reigned in the second week of elections with National pressed on the hazy details of their electorate deal with ACT.
In previous elections National had endorsed ACT’s candidate in Epsom in exchange for the party not standing in New Plymouth. The deal guaranteed National a right-wing coalition partner with five MPs in Parliament.
This time around the deal was less clear. National ran Paul Goldsmith in Epsom, despite indicating he was only after the party vote.
This caused confusion not only for voters but within ACT, with their Electorate Chairman Morris Hey accosting Mr Key in a mall.
Mr Hey accused Mr Key of reneging on his deal with ACT and demanded National pull their candidate from Epsom.
Intense press coverage saw Mr Key reveal his hand a week early, and announce plans for a symbolic ‘cup of tea’ with ACT’s Epsom candidate Mr Banks.
The highly-publicised meeting on Friday, November 11 saw media converge on a Newmarket café to witness the photo-op.
But by weekend’s end, the media stunt had backfired on National with a Sunday paper breaking news of a secret recording of the pair, recorded after they'd ushered media out of earshot.
Freelance cameraman Bradley Ambrose had left a recording device on the table where Mr Key and Mr Banks had met and picked up their conversation.
The recording was passed onto the Herald on Sunday who threatened to reveal the contents of the tape which they called a “game-changer”.
By Monday the 'teapot tapes' saga had reached fever pitch with Mr Key filing an official complaint with police over the so-called “private” conversation.
Week three of the campaign was to be awash with controversy.
As tension ratcheted up over the tapes, the Green Party made headlines of their own.
Dr Norman revealed Jolyon White, the partner of his executive assistant, had organised the attack, which added ''The rich deserve more'' and ''Drill it, mine it, sell it'' stickers to National billboards around the country.
It was a rare blemish in the Greens' otherwise clean campaign, but was soon forgotten as tea tape fever again took hold.
Mr Key denounced media for News of the World-style tactics, while journalists argued the café recording was in the public interest and should be released.
The pending police investigation hamstrung media efforts to report on the conversation, until NZ First leader Winston Peters leaked details he alleged were on the tape.
Mr Peters told a public meeting in Invercargill that Mr Banks called his leader a “strange fellow”, and discussed replacing him with party president Catherine Isaac. He also said Mr Key told Mr Banks that NZ First’s voters were “dying off”.
The leak gave Mr Peters a foot in the door after a quiet campaign, as he continued his pot-shots at Mr Key and enjoyed increased media attention and movement in the polls.
Pressure mounted on Mr Key to answer tape allegations, but he called the conversation “mundane” and a matter for the police.
On November 17, the cameraman at the centre of the controversy filed civil proceedings at the High Court in Auckland. He sought a court ruling over the tapes to determine whether the recorded café conversation was private or public.
If ruled public, media could legally report on the conversation and the police investigation would be all but over.
The day after the ruling police executed a search warrant at TV3, taking copies of the tape, a transcript of the tape, video footage from the tea party and notes from a conversation between Director of 3 News Mark Jennings and Mr Ambrose.
The final week of the campaign saw a renewed focus on policy.
Mr Goff toured the country’s state-owned assets and Mr Key took a bus trip with Transport Minister Steven Joyce.
The pair met for the final leaders’ debates. TV3’s on-screen worm caused a brief stir after allegations from right-wing bloggers the group of “undecided voters” was infiltrated by Labour loyalists.
The worm, which tracked the group’s emotional reaction, heavily favoured Mr Goff.
TVNZ’s final debate saw the leaders spar over asset sales, potential coalition partners and the minimum wage.
But it was Mr Goff’s allegation of National’s police recruiting freeze that made headlines the following day.
National dismissed the claim and Police Minister Judith Collins vowed to resign if it was true.
An Official Information Act request put pressure on National’s final campaign days. ONE News claimed the Government were sitting on critical details over their partial asset sales proposal and demanded they come clean.
The ombudsman declined to release the information, saying it was “commercially sensitive”.
National had previously claimed a maximum of only 10 percent of the assets could end up in foreign hands, while ONE News said the documents disputed this limit.
The final day of campaigning proved a quiet affair aside from an allegation from Kiwiblog that Winston Peters’ candidacy was illegal, but it didn’t stick.
source: newshub archive