Decision 17: Who will be our new Government after the election?

It all comes down to this.

The final votes have been cast for the Government to carry New Zealand through the next three years.

But which party will emerge ahead and which ones will be shut out altogether? The polls have been unpredictable and the results could go any number of ways.

The results of the final Newshub-Reid Research poll of this election.
The results of the final Newshub-Reid Research poll of this election. Photo credit: Newshub.

Depending on the number of overhang seats, it's likely parties will need 61 seats to form a majority Government. The current Government formed a coalition with ACT to gain a majority, with Māori also included as a buffer.

Here are the most likely potential futures we face:

National rules
Scenario one - National has a clear majority to govern. Photo credit: Newshub.

Despite sliding in the polls after Jacinda Ardern took over Labour, National has managed to claw its way back to a comfortable position.

A Newshub-Reid Research poll released on September 12 saw the party soar to a 10-point lead over Labour, polling at 47.3 percent - enough to earn a majority of 61 seats in Parliament. Since that poll, National has dipped slightly to 45.8 percent.

Without needing a coalition, National would enjoy the luxury of pushing through its policies with little compromise.

National & NZ First
Scenario two - National & NZ First form a coalition. Photo credit: Newshub.

Meanwhile, NZ First's polling has been up and down, from 7.6 percent in the first poll of the year, up to 13 percent in July and dropping again to 5 percent, before rallying to sit at 7.1 percent.

Those changing fortunes have seen leader Winston Peters swing from king (or queen) maker - required by either major party to form a Government - to struggling to reach the 5 percent party threshold needed to return to Parliament without an electorate, then back into his powerbroker position.

When he held the balance of power previously, Mr Peters began compiling a list of "bottom lines" - non-negotiable policies for any party wanting to work with him. The latest poll has him back in control, so it remains to be seen how much National would be willing to bend.

National, ACT & Maori Party
Scenario three - National joins forces with ACT and the Māori Party. Photo credit: Newshub.

If National only needs a few seats and Bill English doesn't want to work with Mr Peters, it could fall back on its tried-and-true buddies.

If ACT's David Seymour retains his Epsom seat, after striking a deal with National, his party won't need the 5 percent threshold to get in.

The Māori Party, with its handful of seats, could also join the coalition. That could be enough to lock out Mr Peters and still secure a National-led Government.

Kabiyr & Greens
Scenario four - Labour combines with the Greens to form a majority. Photo credit: Newshub.

Their Memorandum of Understanding may be over, but any Labour Government probably still needs the Greens to form a majority.

This has been a drama-filled year for these allies. Both have seen leaders - Andrew Little and Metiria Turei - resign in the lead-up to the election, with opposite effects in the polls.

Ms Ardern's appointment saw Labour leap ahead of National briefly, before reverting back to the number two spot. At one point, the Greens plummeted after Ms Turei left and, like NZ First, risked seeing the doors close on them without an electorate seat.

If the Greens manage to return to their earlier polling numbers and Labour picks up just a few more points, a majority coalition could be formed without needing Mr Peters.

Labour, Greens & Maori
Scenario five - Labour, Green & Māori parties unite to govern. Photo credit: Newshub.

If a Labour-Green coalition is just shy of a majority, the Māori Party could get drawn into the fold.

Māori co-leader Marama Fox has already indicated she would be interested in a coalition with the other two parties, saying together they could "change the world".

That might provide only one or two seats, but that could be enough to tip the balance in Labour's favour.

Labour, Greens & NZ First
Scenario six - NZ First helps Labour & Greens over the top. Photo credit: Newshub.

If Labour and the Green Party don't manage to recover their losses, Mr Peters could fill the shortfall in seats.

But among his collection of bottom-lines, several directly oppose the same policies Labour has campaigned on, particularly those related to climate or environmental issues, which will also be close to the Greens' heart.

If Mr Peters is needed to get over the line, that could make for some intriguing parliamentary debates.

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The polls close at 7pm Saturday and live updates will be available throughout the night on Newshub.co.nz, RadioLIVE and Three.

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