Three more years for PM John Key
National leader John Key today faces a simple job of stitching together a new Government after winning a thumping mandate from voters last night.
But recriminations on the other side of the political fence, in Labour, are already unfolding with former leader David Shearer maligning a "tragic" result for the party.
Key and National have been returned to office with an increased 48 per cent of the vote on the night. Labour is left licking its wounds after polling a lowly 24.7 per cent and the Greens have also came up short of their expectations, securing 10 per cent.
Although there are some special votes still to be counted, National on its current numbers could govern alone. Labour, by contrast, faces yet another bruising leadership contest before the year is out.
For National to win a third term even more popular than when it began its second is unparalleled in recent memory and defies political convention. National's opponents thought dirty politics, the Dotcom bomb and the campaign from hell would lay National low. The opposite happened instead.
The backlash carried National back to Government stronger than ever.
Key is now set to quickly stitch up a deal with his traditional allies - the Maori Party, United Future and Act.
National's campaign chair Steven Joyce this morning said it was "highly unlikely" the party would seek the extra cushion of a deal with NZ First. But he added that National would probably try to "build a relationship" with NZ First, with an eye to the 2017 election.
Across the aisle in the Labour camp, however, there are no easy options.
It has been an old fashioned rout, Labour's ranks decimated and some of its best talent lost.
There is no way to sugar coat the pill - Labour's campaign has been an utter failure.
Labour leader David Cunliffe blamed the distractions of dirty politics and Dotcom, but that won't head off the knives being sharpened for his back.
Labour's system of deciding the leadership means, however, it will take a while for the situation to shake down.
Under Labour's constitution a leadership vote must be held in February and it will be determined not just by the caucus, but by the unions and the party membership.
That means whoever might be positioning themselves for the leadership will have to move carefully.
They will need to court all three factions to have any hope of winning.
That could provoke more months of disunity and division within Labour.
The alternative is they throw themselves behind Cunliffe once and for all.
The party membership may be willing to do so; it will be a huge ask of his MPs after last night's rout.
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