NZ Election 2020: The MPs on a knife-edge ahead of final election results

With the world captivated by the US presidential election, it's easy to forget that our own election results are yet to be finalised - and some MPs are on a knife-edge. 

The Electoral Commission announced the results of the New Zealand general election on October 17 - but those were just the preliminary results. The final results - including overseas voters and those who enrolled on Election Day - are yet to be confirmed.  

It's a nervous wait for some candidates who won their electorate by only a few hundred votes. One of them is National MP Shane Reti, who was re-elected on preliminary results as MP for Whangārei by just 162 votes ahead of Labour's Emily Henderson. 

"You have to prepare for every eventuality. Even if you have a slim margin, you never know where the special votes are going to take you," Dr Reti told Newshub. 

"I'm really proud to be the victor on the night but I do understand I have a slim margin and I do understand the special votes swing to the left so we need to wait and see where those cards fall."

Dr Reti won't be the only National MP feeling nervous. Maureen Pugh is on the cusp of losing her position in Parliament if the party's support drops even further once special votes are confirmed. 

National suffered a heavy election defeat to Labour on preliminary results, going from holding 56 seats in Parliament after the 2017 election to just 35 - and there could be more losses to come if the special votes swing left. 

But it's a bit complicated. 

The important thing to remember is that New Zealand operates under the MMP voting system, a mixed electoral system in which voters get two votes: one to decide the representative for their electorate, and one for a political party.

National won 26.8 percent of the party vote on Election Day and 26 electorate seats. From that result, National gets 35 seats in Parliament, which includes its 26 electorate seats and 9 seats calculated from its party vote. 

Because National only got 9 list seats, it puts Pugh in danger of losing her place, because she is currently the last National MP who made it in on the list.  

Here's an example of what could happen: If Dr Reti loses Whangarei, he will have to come in on the list (he's ranked at number five on National's list) and so in that scenario, Maureen Pugh could be pushed out. 

And it wouldn't be the first time for her. 

It's the third time Pugh - who ran in the West Coast electorate - has been caught in limbo. In 2014, she made into Parliament on the party list on election night but was out after special votes were counted, and it was the same story in 2017. 

Pugh became an MP in 2018 after former National leader Bill English stepped down which made room for her to come in on the party list. 

Pugh, who has described herself as the "yo-yo MP", recently told RNZ she expects to be gone once the special votes are confirmed.  

"I actually thought this might have been third time lucky. But no... Definitely déjà vu. And so I am under no illusions what is going to happen with the specials are counted," she said. 

"It looks like that's going to happen again, although I'm not quite sure whether we will have enough wriggle room this time, because it's a very short list."

At the 2017 election, the special votes ended up giving Labour and the Greens an additional seat each. National lost two seats, dropping from 58 on election night to 56. The extra Green seat gave Green MP Golriz Ghahraman her chance to join Parliament. 

But the Greens have cause for concern this time around. 

Green MP Chloe Swarbrick defied the polls on Election Day and won the Auckland Central electorate which had been held by National. It was the first time a Green MP had picked up an electorate since the 1990s. 

But Swarbrick only won it by 492 votes. If special voters from Auckland Central favour Labour's Helen White, the Greens will hold no electorates - but if you're a Swarbrick fan don't worry, she would continue on as a list MP. 

White also makes it into Parliament regardless, because Labour got such a big chunk of the party vote - 49 percent - so at number 48 on Labour's list, she's safe and is already being inducted to Parliament. 

If Labour picks up a 64th seat from the specials, it could bring in number 54 on the list, Lemauga Lydia Sosene, chairperson for the Māngere-Ōtāhuhu Local Board. If the Greens pick up another seat, they could bring in Steve Abel, an environmental activist. 

Another close call is the Māori seat of Waiariki. On preliminary results, the Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi won it from Labour's Tamati Coffey by 415 votes. This is the Māori Party's ticket into Parliament and it would be devastating for them to lose it. 

The electorates won by less than 1000 votes:

  • Auckland Central - currently held by the Greens' Chloe Swarbrick
  • Invercargill - currently held by National's Penny Simmonds
  • Maungakiekie - currently held by National's Denise Lee
  • Northland - currently held by National's Matt King
  • Tukituki - currently held by Labour's Anna Lork
  • Whangarei - currently held by National's Shane Reti
  • Tāmaki Makaurau - currently held by Labour's Peeni Henare
  • Waiariki - currently held by Māori Party's Rawiri Waititi