Chris Hipkins may be sworn in again as Prime Minister due to technicality in law

Chris Hipkins may need to be sworn in again as Prime Minister, just as he prepares to leave the role.  

It is due to a constitutional quirk and has led the Prime Minister's Office to consider the possibility that Hipkins needs to be appointed again by the Governor-General.   

That's despite Hipkins' Labour losing the election and National readying to take over once coalition negotiations are concluded.  

According to New Zealand's Electoral Act, a person ceases to be an MP at the "close of polling day" - meaning the end of election day.    

The Constitution Act states that when a minister ceases to be a MP, that person can continue to hold the ministerial office "until the expiration of the 28th day after the day on which that person ceases to be a member of Parliament". That means 28 days after the end of election day.  

Political candidates don't become an MP again until after the return of the writ. That's currently down for Thursday, but could be delayed in the case of a recount being needed. Recounts are expected in several electorates.  

Saturday is 28 days after the election on October 14, meaning on Sunday anyone who is currently a minister will no longer be if the writ hasn't been returned.  

The legislation says someone who is not a MP can be appointed as a minister if that person was a candidate at the election "held immediately preceding that person's appointment" as a minister.    

However, they would have to vacate the office at the end of 40 days after their appointment unless during that period they became a MP.  

Constitutional law expert Graeme Edgeler says current Prime Minister Chris Hipkins could be re-appointed prior to Sunday.  

A Government spokesperson told Newshub that the Government was aware of the possibility of the need for that "and has a contingency plan in place to ensure continuity of executive Government, which is currently being worked through with other parties in Parliament".  

"Should there be a delay in the return of the writ beyond Friday 10 November, and if the new Government has not yet been appointed, the PM and [National leader Christopher Luxon] are able to advise the Governor-General to reappoint the incumbent administration on Saturday 11 November to operate in caretaker mode until the new Government is sworn in.   

"Those reappointments would be made on the papers. The aim would be to reappoint Ministers to existing portfolios as far as possible, to minimise disruption."  

However, Nanaia Mahuta, who has lost her position in Parliament, would not be reappointed and would leave office on Saturday.  

"Any legislative amendment will be a matter for the new Government in due course."