Stacey Kirk: Of one thing, we're certain – the government is a 50/50 call
OPINION: This changes nothing.
The Parliamentary seat-swap that comes with the final count of the special votes gives the Left more breathing room to form a stable and secure Government should they be the lucky recipient of NZ First leader Winston Peters' good grace.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern will be grateful for that as it does strengthen her negotiating position. But spare us the predictable cries from elsewhere on the Left that a "vote for change" won the election.
The results of the special votes are unsurprising, but they confirm nothing of the sort. Labour and the Greens have picked up a seat each, while National has lost two. That means a Labour, Greens and NZ First coalition would have 63 seats, while a National/NZ First coalition would hit 65 seats.
National received 44.4 per cent of the total vote, while the Labour-Greens bloc gained 43.2 per cent of the vote. If we want to get technical, it shows that in a numbers sense the strongest vote, although not a majority vote, went to the status quo. National still has 10 seats more than Labour does in Parliament, and two seats more than Labour and the Greens put together.
But this is MMP and for good reason, nothing can be characterised so simplistically and nor should it be.
The final tally of votes has confirmed what we always suspected: NZ First has a 50-50 call to make. Neither option that would emerge as the final outcome of Government negotiations would be any more or less legitimate than the other.
But there is one thing that's been kicking around since election night that's struck me as empirically wrong.
The idea that a specific motivation to change the Government can be attached to every vote that wasn't for National or ACT is ridiculous.
Every vote for Labour and the Greens perhaps.
Those who vote Labour clearly don't want National and given how much the Green vote collapsed to its base core, then sure. It's unlikely any voter who wanted a National Government but was sympathetic to Green policies would have voted Greens in this most first-past-the-post of MMP elections either.
But the vigour with which National voters have tried to push the unworkable "teal deal", would suggest there are some National voters who may have at least flirted with voting Green in the past.
There is no way that any pundit can knowingly declare that a NZ First voter is ultimately against a fourth-term National Government. Those that do, are talking solely from the left side of their mouths.
If there truly was a hard vote for change, then the Left would be touting that there was a clear vote for Labour-led Government. Of that, we know there wasn't.
In this scenario there is no greater "moral" obligation to go with one side or another. NZ First has a decision to make based on a straight weigh-up of policy concessions, portfolio concessions and it's own party's longevity.
The "mood" of the nation doesn't come into it because it simply can't be known with any level of certainty. Either way, half the country will be annoyed.
It's anyone's game now, as it was anyone's game the day before yesterday.
And anyone who claims to know which way NZ First voters, caucus members or Peters himself, is leaning, is foolish at best.
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- Sunday Star Times