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National loses out in final election count

Published: 6:56AM Saturday December 10, 2011 Source: ONE News

The final count for the general election delivers a blow for National and a win for the Greens.

National can still govern but its majority has been slashed to just one while the Green Party won enough special votes to gain an extra seat.

For the past two weeks, the Electoral Commission has been counting around 240,000 special votes, and recounting all election night votes.

Voter turnout was a relatively low 74.21%.

The Greens 14th MP comes at National's expense with the party losing a seat in Parliament, dropping to 59 seats. National's party share of the vote dropped slightly to 47.3%.

And in two of the most closely-contested electorates, the special votes have caused upsets with National's Paula Bennett losing her Waitakere electorate and Labour losing its 16 year hold on Christchurch Central.

Bennett, who was social development minister in the last Government, lost her seat by just 11 votes in the final count to Labour's Carmel Sepuloni.

Bennett says she owes it to her supporters to ask for a recount of special votes following her loss. She says a recount will provide her with a definitive answer and she hopes to have the results in her hands before Christmas.

Bennett will remain in parliament as a List MP and she has dismissed claims her loss is a result of a backlash in West Auckland against perceived beneficiary bashing.

Bennett has been criticised for her welfare reform packages but says beneficiary bashing is used as a cheap shot by people who don't want to talk about the welfare state in New Zealand.

Prime Minister-elect John Key offered Bennett his commiserations but is taking an optimistic approach, saying anything is possible when all the votes are fully reviewed.

Key says Bennett is a great Cabinet Minister and even if she still loses the seat in the recount it will not impact her career.

But Labour says today belongs to Sepuloni and her Labour team in Waitakere "who fought a hard battle on the ground which has brought about a great victory".

Meanwhile, in Christchurch Central National's Nicky Wagner broke the deadlock with Labour's Brendon Burns, securing the seat by just 45 votes.

"With such a small margin, the Labour Party will take the necessary steps to begin the process of a formal recount of the Christchurch central electorate vote," the party said today in a statement.

Position to govern

The Green Party increased its share of the party vote from election night, moving to just over 11%. The result means Mojo Mathers will become New Zealand's first profoundly deaf MP.

All other electorate candidates leading on election night have been confirmed as winning their seats.

The size of Parliament will be 121 seats, an increase of 1 seat over the normal 120 seat Parliament.

The additional seat is because the Maori Party won more electorate seats (3 seats) than its entitlement under the party vote (2 seats).

Key has officially announced the National Party is in a position to form a government, along with United Future and Act. He says he has already advised the Governor General and his staff are also stitching up a deal with the Maori Party, which he is optimistic could be signed as early as tomorrow afternoon.

Key says this is the third election in a row where National has lost a seat on special votes, which he describes as a trend which is unfortunately not going the party's way.

He congratulated the Green Party on picking up another seat.

The final result on the referendum on New Zealand's voting system has also been confirmed, 57.77% voted to keep MMP and of those who wanted a change, 46.66% preferred the first passed the post system.

Results leaked

The Chief Electoral Officer says he is convinced leaked details of the special vote count didn't come from his office.

Robert Peden couldn't explain how some media found out Paula Bennett lost her Waitakere seat by just 11 votes to Labour's Carmel Sepuloni and Labour's Brendon Burns lost Christchurch Central by 45 votes to National's Nikki Wagner.

Peden says it's not just his office that is present during the vote count.

He says besides the returning officer and his staff there are Justices of the Peace and scrutineers appointed by the candidates.

Peden says he is unlikely to launch an inquiry as the reports were "simply speculation".

- with Newstalk ZB