Voters thanked amid Labour landslide – as it happened

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We shall now close up our coverage of the New Zealand general ele.....after 7pm.

We shall now close up our coverage of the New Zealand general election, following the historic Labour victory.

We’ll leave you with our news story, with 99.8% of the votes now counted and Labour accounting for 49.1% of votes. Thanks for joining us, and take care.

Jacinda Ardern will govern New Zealand for a second term after the Labour party secured a landslide victory in the general election, attracting so many votes that it could become the first party in decades to be able to govern alone.

With more than 90% of the vote counted, Labour had secured 49%, with the opposition National party on 27%. Labour was expected to win 64 of the 120 seats in parliament, and National, 35. It is the best result for the Labour party in 50 years.

The leader of the opposition, Judith Collins, congratulated Ardern on the “outstanding result” on Saturday night.

Speaking to supporters at Auckland town hall minutes later, Ardern thanked the nation for the strong mandate. She said elections “don’t have to be divisive” and promised to govern with positivity.

“I cannot imagine a people I would feel more privileged to work on behalf of, to work alongside and to be prime minister for,” she said to cheers.

“Tonight’s result does give Labour a very strong and a very clear mandate.”

Updated

The Dalai Lama has joined the chorus of congratulations, paying tribute to Ardern’s “respect for others in the face of tragedy”.

I admire the courage, wisdom and leadership you have shown in these challenging times. I particularly applaud the way you have responded with calm, compassion and respect for others in the face of tragedy.

During my several visits to your beautiful country over the years I have been deeply touched by the openness and warmth of people from all walks of life. I have been encouraged by the enthusiasm and interest they have shown in my efforts to promote a sense of oneness of humanity and the need for inter-religious harmony.

Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has highlighted an eyebrow-raising story from the News Corp-owned Courier-Mail which suggests Labour’s resounding victory was a shock.

British prime minister Boris Johnson has congratulated Jacinda Ardern on her victory.

And warm wishes from Labour leader Keir Starmer, and the UK’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy.

A tweet from 2012 by Jacinda Ardern in which the newly reelected New Zealand prime minister is less than complimentary about the British prime minister Boris Johnson is being circulated once more on social media.

Thanks Helen. Good morning, good afternoon and good evening to everyone reading.

David Seymour, the leader of the libertarian ACT party, has been pictured arriving at his election celebration on a boat – with his party set to win 10 seats, tied with the Greens.

Meanwhile, Nikki Kaye, former opposition leader and National Party MP – who announced she was quitting politics ahead of the election – has appeared to decline an offer of a consolation lolly on broadcast news.

Updated

And with that, it’s time for me, Helen Sullivan, to say good night. Thanks for following along as we watched those historic results race in.

There are many things New Zealand can teach the world about elections – this is but one:

My colleague Mattha Busby will be bringing you reactions from around the world for the next while.

Just under 100% of votes counted: Labour ahead

With 98.6% of the results counted, Labour is still projected to win 64 seats in parliament, which would secure New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s party a majority – for the first time since New Zealand moved to its MMP electoral system in 1996:

Here are some photos of our readers around the world watching the results live:

Portugal:

The Netherlands:

Australia:

Germany:

Summary

  • With nearly 100% of votes counted, New Zealand’s Labour Party is projected to win a historic majority in parliament, marking the first time that any party has won an outright majority in New Zealand since the country introduced its current MMP electoral system in 1996.
  • With 98.4% of votes counted, Labour is projected to win 64 seats and 49.0% of the vote. The party needs 61 seats to form government alone.
  • Ardern’s decision to close the borders and enforce a nationwide lockdown meant fewer than 2,000 people become infected with coronavirus and 25 people died. She has huge challenges ahead, however, with New Zealand now in its worst recession in decades.
  • In her speech, Ardern thanked New Zealand. “This is not an ordinary election and this has not been an ordinary time,” she said.
  • Labour is currently projected to win 64 seats, three more than the 61 needed to form government. The opposition is projected to win just 35 seats.
  • New Zealand First has this year failed to secure a single seat in the parliament. In 2017 the party’s leader, Winston Peters, was the kingmaker, forming coalition with Labour in order to secure Ardern’s leadership.
  • National Party leader Judith Collins gave a brief speech and later left the party headquarters without speaking to media. She called Labour’s result “outstanding” and vowed that in three years’ time, “We will be back.”

Jacinda Ardern: full speech

Here is Jacinda Ardern’s victorious speech from earlier this evening. By the time you’re finished watching it we just might have 100% of the results counted (the tally is now 97.8%):

Congratulations from London Mayor Sadiq Khan:

The Guardian’s Charlotte Graham-Mclay reports:

He was the consummate survivor of New Zealand politics; an irascible, populist maverick who at times handpicked who would lead the country. Winston Peters, the leader of the minor New Zealand First party, was at the centre of many political maelstroms of the past few decades - and famously, in 2017, propelled Jacinda Ardern to lead the country.

Year after year, he defied polls that suggested he would be consigned to political history, instead being part of four governments during his time in power. But in Saturday’s election, Peters failed to rate with voters and will leave parliament, along with the party he founded.

With 90% of the vote counted, New Zealand First won 2.6%, well short of the 5% threshold needed for a party to enter parliament, unless an MP from that party wins a constituent seat. Peters’ party did not. It was an undignified end for a party that had held nine seats in parliament and the balance of power in Ardern’s coalition government:

A reminder that the euthanasia and cannabis referendum results will not be available tonight. We’ll know how New Zealand voted on those issues on 30 October.

National Party leader Judith Collins has left the party HQ without taking questions from reporters:

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon has congratulated Ardern:

Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford is speaking now. As we watched the results he kept thinking, “That’ll go down. That’ll go down,” but it didn’t.

He hasn’t taken a moment because he was worried about burning fish and getting his and Ardern’s daughter Neve to sleep, he says.

The fish is a reference to the fried dish he made for reporters outside the PM’s home earlier:

95% of votes counted: Labour well ahead

Australia Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has congratulated Ardern:

The Māori Party has gained the lead in one of the seven Māori electorates.
Rawiri Waititi has narrowly taken the lead from Labour in the central North Island electorate of Waiariki.

The Maori Party lead in Waiariki is currently 299.

This may be the only electorate race which will make a difference to the national seat count. If the Māori Party win, they will have win one seat that they wouldn’t otherwise have won, and be eligible for list seats.

At the moment they have only polled around 1% of the national party vote, which isn’t enough to win a second seat on the list, but it is theoretically possible they could pick up a second if their vote picks up. Still that would be one less seat available for the other four parties.

My colleague Phil Taylor is at the Green Party event.

The Greens are hopeful of playing a role in the new government.

Co-leader James Shaw told the Guardian a few minutes ago that even though preliminary results indicate Labour could govern alone there were many reasons Labour may want to include the Green Party.

He expects to speak to Labour leader Jacinda Ardern by phone tomorrow, though he said the counting of special votes allowed some breathing space.

The Election result would see “a very strong progressive government”.

“The precise make up of that remains to be seen but there are a number of reasons Labour would want the Greens as part of the government.

“One is to get the largest majority in the house possible.

“Another was to make use of the party’s experienced ministers,” says Shaw.

“And we want to win again in 2023. It’s important to build on our partnership.”

He said it was clear from the result - the party with 7.8% with 88% of the vote counted, and Chloe Swarbrick poised to win the Auckland Central electorate - that voters want the Greens “not just to be in parliament but part of the government.”

And here is Judith Collins, conceding defeat earlier this evening:

National leader Judith Collins concedes the 2020 New Zealand general election
National leader Judith Collins concedes the 2020 New Zealand general election Photograph: Greg Bowker/Getty Images

Some scenes from the Labour event tonight, where Jacinda Ardern has been talking to supporters:

Labour Party leader and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media after claiming victory during the Labor Party election night function
Labour Party leader and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to media after claiming victory during the Labor Party election night function Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images
Supporters during the Labor Party function at Auckland Town Hall
Supporters during the Labor Party function at Auckland Town Hall Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern, her partner Clarke Gayford and party members gather on the stage at the Labour Party’s event
Jacinda Ardern, her partner Clarke Gayford and party members gather on the stage at the Labour Party’s event Photograph: Michael Bradley/AFP/Getty Images

The Guardian’s Charlotte Graham McLay is at Nationals HQ:

As well as Paul Goldsmith who I spoke to earlier, I’ve also head from a couple of centre-right analysts about the night’s result.

Tau Henare, a former National party MP (he’s also represented a couple of others) said Judith Collins “won’t be leader” of the party “for that long.”

He added that her concession speech was “very magnanimous and unlike the Judith we’ve come to know.” He’s referring to her divisive, “Crusher” Collins persona that was likely to have led much of the voting public to have already made up their minds about her – love or loathe – before she became leader.

Henare said that Labour’s result came down to Covid-19. “Folks trust her to get us through it,” he said of Jacinda Ardern.

Ben Thomas, a public relations consultant and former National government staffer, also said the vote was “a reflection of the bond [Ardern] formed with the electorate during Covid.”

He said the incredible thing about this result was that centre-right National voters went to centre-left Labour, rather than to the minor parties as would usually be the case.

Updated

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, is congratulated by her partner Clarke Gayford following her victory speech to Labour Party members at an event in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, 17 October, 2020.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, is congratulated by her partner Clarke Gayford following her victory speech to Labour Party members at an event in Auckland, New Zealand, Saturday, 17 October, 2020. Photograph: Mark Baker/AP
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (C), her hushand Clarke Gayford (centre L) and party members gather on the stage at the Labour Party’s after party following victory in the the country’s general election in Auckland on 17 October 2020.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (C), her hushand Clarke Gayford (centre L) and party members gather on the stage at the Labour Party’s after party following victory in the the country’s general election in Auckland on 17 October 2020. Photograph: Michael Bradley/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Ardern says her daughter Neve “was asleep as any good two year old would be” as the results came in. With that she leaves the gaggle of media to head backstage.

Updated

She has no intention of changing the deputy leader.

It is “usually the natural order of things” that the deputy leader will be deputy PM, she adds, and she has no intention of changing that either.

Ardern tells reporters, “It’s fair to say I wasn’t quite on the money,” when she imagined what tonight’s results might look like.

Tomorrow (Sunday) she will catch up with family members who have travelled to Auckland. “A little bit of time for Clarke. A little bit of time for Neve,” she says of her partner and daughter.

But, she adds, she did say the work would start tomorrow, “and it will.”

Ardern is holding a press conference now.

The question now is whether she will bring in the Greens.

“The results do show that we have a clear mandate.” She wants to take stock before she decides precisely what the government will look like, she says

90% of votes counted: Labour well ahead

With 90% of votes counted Labour is still projected to win 64 seats

Ardern is speaking to a reporter now who asks what Ardern will do with her mandate.

It means that she can move “much faster,” and “with pace.”

Regardless of the government she chooses to form, says Ardern, the mandate is “strong.”

Meanwhile the Guardian’s Charlotte Graham-Mclay is at Nationals HQ:

Judith Collins swept in through one door and out the other at the National party event here in Auckland. She was, as she said in her speech, treated as though she had won.

But there was one big difference – after her speech, she left the room, not staying to answer reporters’ questions. But I hear she’s still in the venue – she’s upstairs having a drink, a staffer said – her first since she took over as leader.

The only senior MP here at National HQ was Paul Goldsmith, third on the party’s list. I’ve just interviewed him -- he says he’s “devastated and disappointed” by the result and the party would “take time to analyse” what went wrong.

“We think we had a clearer economic plan” than Labour’s to rebuild the economy after Covid-19, he said, but needed to figure out “how to get that across better.”

The election did turn into a referendum on Ardern’s Covid-19 response, basically, and National had to argue they could do it better while New Zealand enjoyed some of – so far at least – the best coronavirus results in the world.
And what about Judith Collins’s leadership? Should she remain as party leader?
“Look, she did a very good job in very difficult circumstances,” Goldsmith said. “Look, we’ll take stock over the next couple of weeks.”

Updated

Ardern is speaking to media now.

She is feeling “very pleased with the results tonight,” she says.

Was she surprised, she is asked, by how high the results were?

“Well look everybody worked so hard,” she says.

“I imagine I’ll take a little moment later this evening and then first thing tomorrow we crack on with work.”

Ardern is doing a lap of the room and will then return to speak to media. Labour supporters are dancing in the aisles at the town hall.

In a veiled jab at US president Donald Trump Ardern in her speech said that elections “do not have to be divisive.” There are other ways in which the New Zealand election has been different from the US elections so far: no long voting queues.

This election has also happened as New Zealand mourns 25 people who have died in the country over the course of the pandemic so far.

The US is mourning 218,000 dead.

Ardern also promised new state houses for the homeless, a thriving economy and action on the climate emergency.

She said her party now have “the mandate” to accelerate their recovery response for the country.

“We know the next few years will not be easy... but there have been chinks of light that have shone through even in the darkest times.”

85% of results counted: Labour ahead

https://twitter.com/helenrsullivan/status/1317398722985127936?s=20

“I cannot imagine a people I would feel more privileged to work on behalf of, to work alongside and to be Prime Minister for,” says Ardern.

She promises to govern with positivity.

“Let’s step forward together,” she says. “Let’s keep moving.” This is is Labour’s slogan and these are her last words before leaving the stage.

Ardern: 'It is clear that Labour will lead the government for the next three years'

“This is not an ordinary election and this has not been an ordinary time,” she says.

“Tonight’s result is strong. It is clear that Labour will lead the government for the next three years,” says Ardern.

Ardern is thanking those “who may not have supported Labour before” and promises Labour will govern for every New Zealander, which she says has never been so important.

“We are living in a polarised world... I hope in this election New Zealand has shown this is not who we are,” she says. “We are too small to lose sight of other people’s perspective.”

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern thanks New Zealand

Ardern has taken the stage. She is smiling and has tears in her eyes. She is silent for a moment.

Then she begins her speech in Māori.

Then she says: “Tonight New Zealand has shown the Labour party its biggest support in 50 years.”

“We have seen that support in urban seats and rural seats and seats we may not have expected. And to that I have only two words,” she says. She then thanks the people of New Zealand:

“Thank you.”

Updated

Here is our story on the night so far:

Jacinda Ardern was on track to be re-elected as prime minister of New Zealand, after the Labour Party looking set for a landslide victory in the country’s general election, attracting so many votes that it could become the first party in decades to be able to govern alone.

With more than 70% of the vote counted, Labour had secured 49%, with the opposition National Party on 27%. Labour was expected to win 64 seats of the 120 seats in parliament, and Nationals 35.

The leader of the opposition, Judith Collins, congratulated Ardern on the her “outstanding result” on Saturday night.

The vote had become a referendum on Ardern’s leadership of the country since her sudden ascension to power three years ago. The dismal results for her opponents suggested New Zealanders had rewarded her for her deft handling of the pandemic, which has so far spared the country the worst of Covid-19, although the country is now in a recession.

Labour’s strong lead began early on in the night and as the hours wore on the commanding lead did not erode:

Mayor Phil Goff, former Labour MP and leader of the Labour party who is now in charge of Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city – which went into a second lockdown in August after the second wave of Covid-19 – says he, “would have predicted Labour would win because of the leadership during Covid-19 but I did not expect such a huge majority.”

“This is a win for progressive politics in New Zealand... we’re proud of what we’ve achieved but we know we need strong international leadership from the US and completely different to what they’ve had in the past.”

“This election has been defined by Covid-19. Here we are on election night at level one, tomorrow there will be 40,000 people watching the Bledisloe cup - one of the few countries in the world where we can live like this.”

“Our economic recovery now is key - and the impact of lockdown. We need to build back without putting at risk what we have achieved.”

80% of votes counted: Labour well ahead

Deputy labour leader Kelvin Davis is speaking now as we wait for Ardern.

The Maori MP from northland was minister for corrections and has worked to reduce the rate of incarceration for Maori.

He is talking about Taniwha’s Maori creation story and retelling the demise of the National Party.

As we prepare to hear from Jacinda Ardern:

The previous best result for Labour under the MMP system was in 2002, when Helen Clark was up for re-election after her first term in power. Clark had governed in partnership with the left-wing Alliance for her first term, but the Alliance imploded in the lead-up to the 2002 election and were mostly wiped out.

The result saw National reduced to just 27 seats, including 21 electorates. Labour won three extra seats for a total of 52 seats. That was collectively twenty less seats than Labour and National are on track to win at the moment. That Parliament included a lot more minor parties. New Zealand First, ACT, Green and United Future all won between eight and twelve seats, along with two Progressives.

New Zealand politics has become much more consolidated behind the major parties in the last eighteen years, which means a Labour landslide looks set to have produced a Labour majority, while a massive National defeat still leaves them with eight more seats than their last massive defeat.

Jacinda Ardern arrives at Labour HQ

Labour leader and New Zealand Prime Minister has arrived at Labour headquarters.

75% of vote counted: Labour ahead

With three quarters of the vote counted, Labour is projected to win 64 seats. Three seats more than the party needs to form government alone:

Collins says “three years will be gone in the blink of an eye. And I say to everybody, ‘We will be back.’”

“Just to avoid any doubt, tonight is just the beginning,” says Collins.

She hasn’t explicitly conceded the election but that reference to “three years” is effectively Collins saying the next three years will not be ones with National in government.

Collins has congratulated Ardern over the phone on what she says is, “I believe is an outstanding result for Labour.”

Updated

“Thank you for backing me to be your leader. Thank you for supporting me and each other through what has been a gruelling and long campaign with the added difficulties of lockdown and Covid,” says Collins.

“To those who are leaving us this election, can I say you will be missed,” says Collins to a round of applause.

“For those of you who did not plan to leave parliament can I say how sorry I am that we have not secured the results you needed.”

National’s Judith Collins is speaking at National headquarters:

National’s Judith Collins speaks

National’s Judith Collins is speaking now

Labour is currently projected to have 64 seats for National’s 35: in what would be a thumping majority.

Shouts of “Judith! Judith! Judith!” can be heard in the room.

Collins thanks the volunteers who “coped so well” with Covid restrictions and other hiccups.

“And boy did we know it was going to be hard. But you kept the faith,” she says. “And thank you to everyone who voted National. We value your support and thank you for your trust and confidence and the next three years will be an opportunity for us to repay that trust.”

“To all our candidates who have not been successful tonight thank you for your courage,” says Collins.

Jacinda Ardern has emerged briefly from her house to smile and say many “Thank Yous” before heading back inside.

This looks like a sign that she might be leaving soon for the Labour event.

Updated

Another Kiwi dog – this one is on his morning walk in Berlin:

Send me greetings from wherever you’re watching the coverage:

The Guardian’s Charlotte Graham-McLay reports live from National’s election event:

I mentioned earlier that National was not only looking dismal in the party vote, but also a number of incumbents in electorate seats were looking to lose them.

The party’s deputy leader, Gerry Brownlee, is likely to be out of his seat of Ilam in Christchurch. He’s losing by 2,000 votes, with more than 60% counted. This is huge – he has held that seat since 1996 and he’s one of the party’s highest profile politicians.

He was touted by Judith Collins as the party’s architect of its Covid-19 rebuild, as he was the minister in charge of earthquake recovery after the Christchurch quakes. But there remains a lot of negative feeling about him in Christchurch due to those events in 2010 and 2011 – so a real message from his local constituents that they don’t want him in power.

Of course, at second on the party’s list he’ll still be in parliament. But a safe National seat is gone, to Labour’s Sarah Pallett.

Nick Smith, who has held the seat of Nelson since 1996, is also looking to be out – he’s losing by 3,000 votes to Labour’s Rachel Boyack.

From a Stuff.NZ reporter:

Updated

The Guardian’s Charlotte Graham-McLay writes:

This is a pretty apt and humorously succinct summary for the situation for National from MP Chris Bishop.

He is one of the National MPs whose twitter accounts remained unlocked – and he’s high enough on the National list (seventh) that he should be safely in parliament. But leader Judith Collins’s is locked – and the party’s website remains so.

Collins is on her way from a hotel not far from here – I’m at the party HQ in Auckland – and we’re expecting her to speak but take no questions.

Environment Minister David Parker told the Guardian if he could change one thing tomorrow after being re-elected, he would decarbonise all transport in New Zealand.

“The two most pressing environmental issues in New Zealand are climate change obviously, and water quality and we will keep pushing hard on both,” said Parker.

“We have brought forward our ambition to be 100% renewables to 2030.”

“On water quality, like a lot of areas in the world where we have had increased intensive farming we’ve had pressure on the water quality and it has been quite controversial some of the measures we’ve proposed to control some of the riskier practices that are contributing to that. But we’ve obviously got a mandate to see that through.”

“In Southland for example what worked when we had 50,000 cows doesn’t work when you have 650,000 cows.”

Parker would not comment on whether he wanted the prime minister to declare a climate emergency if she was re-elected.

60% of votes counted: Labour ahead

More than 60% of the votes have now been counted, and while Labour’s lead has dropped slightly, the party still has a projected 65 seats – a majority and four more than it would need to form government alone:

Kiwis (overseas and in Aotearoa): where are you watching the election? Let me know on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

Updated

The most interesting electorate right now is probably Auckland Central, where first-term Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick is narrowly ahead of Labour candidate Helen White.

Swarbrick currently leads by 414 votes, which is equivalent to about 2.2% of the vote counted so far. The sitting National MP Nikki Kaye is retiring and the new National candidate is languishing in a distant third place.

Updated

Judith Collins leaves for National event

Judith Collins is on her way to National Party event amid what NZTV commentators have called a “devastating” result for the opposition.

An NZTV reporter says that she overheard someone at the event saying their “drink needed a drink.”

Updated

Phil Taylor reports from the Greens event:

Green Party co-leaders Maramara Davidson and James Shaw arrived a short time ago at their election party and received a rapturous reception when the announced the party had made history.

They were the first support party to have started and finished a term in government above the 5% party vote threshold, Shaw told the excited throng.

“We are stronger at the end of our first term in government than we were at the beginning.”

“We defied the odds. We made history.”

To chants of “Chloe, Chloe”, Shaw held back from predicting victory for Swarbrick, who has held a lead of 400 votes through the past couple of hours, in Auckland Central, but said she is vying for another piece of Green’s history.

No third party has won an electorate seat without the endorsement of a leader from one of the two major parties.

As preliminary results stand, the Greens will return to parliament with four more MPs.

50% of the votes counted: Labour ahead

With half of the votes counted, Labour is still projected to win an outright majority of 65 seats, which would make it the first party to do so since New Zealand adopted the MMP system nearly 25 years ago:

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark:

Updated

Judith Collins will make her way to National event in 5 minutes' time

The Guardian’s Charlotte Graham-McLay will bring us the latest live from National’s election event

TVNZ commentators have just called that an “extraordinarily short speech” from Peters.

New Zealand First leader and deputy PM Winston Peters is speaking to supporters now.

Three years ago he was kingmaker in the election, doing a deal with Ardern that secured her as the country’s prime minister.

Now, NZ First looks unlikely to win a single seat.

“This was an election that because of Covid-19 and extended lockdowns was like no other this country has ever seen even in wartime. To those who have been successful tonight, our congratulations,” says Peters.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speaks to supporters at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters speaks to supporters at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

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Here are the four jubilant Labour supporters my colleague Eleanor spoke to a moment ago:

So Labour’s vote has dropped further to 50.2%, but it’s worth emphasising that in practice they won’t need a majority of the vote to win a majority of seats.

At the moment 8.2% of the party vote is sitting with parties that won’t win any seats, including 2.4% for Winston Peters’ New Zealand First. Those votes are effectively ignored when seats are allocated, so Labour only needs to win a majority of the 91.8% cast for Labour, National, Green and ACT. If you change the denominator, Labour’s vote is currently 54.7% of the threshold-eligible party vote.

If you assume no change in the proportion of the vote going to parties that won’t win seats, Labour’s vote would have to drop to 45.9% to not win a majority of the threshold-eligible party vote. That seems implausible.

Labour supporters are gathering outside the town hall in Auckland to celebrate.

They say the “mind-blowing” numbers of support for Labour are a win for progressive politics around the globe.

“This is once in a lifetime,” says a supporter named Chris. “Mind-blowing”.

“Science and clear communication around Covid-19 have won the day against Trumpery and fake news - people have clearly seen how the government looked after us,” says Christine.

“I think people are really grateful with the way Jacinda has handled Covid; she is leading the world. We are able to live our lives normally with very few restrictions - it is just a blessing.”

“She had March 15 and then she had Covid- she dealt with them with care, firmness and kindness. The results tonight are a reflection of hard work, commitment and what she has done for the country,” says Moustafa.

“This victory will be a stake in the heart for neo-liberal politics, the people count more than the market. People pulling together can win the day,” says Cameron.

Updated

We are starting to see the Labour party vote drop. It’s dropped from 50.6% to 50.3% in the last few minutes.

It’s too early to say but it’s possible we could see a change in the trend as different tranches of votes are reported.

Not that this will see a huge turnaround in the result, but this could be enough to slim Labour’s majority, or possibly require Green support.

40% of votes counted: Labour well ahead

Labour still has a projected majority of 66 seats, five more than they need to form government:

Greens congratulate Labour on 'extraordinary win'

Greens party leaders are addressing their event saying they’ve had an “incredible campaign.”

I want to congratulate Ardern for an “extraordinary win”, says Greens MP Marama Davidson.

Greens Party co-leader Marama Davidson and co-leader James Shaw
Greens Party co-leader Marama Davidson and co-leader James Shaw Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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Labour MP Jenny Salesa says Jacinda Ardern’s competent handling of Covid-19 has convinced New Zealanders to trust her for a second term. She said the New Zealand government believed in science, and trusted the experts.

“Kiwis seem to be voting for progressive values, you see the result of Covid-19 here - we’re so different, we’re free, we can have mass-gatherings, we can go to school, we can go to work - and that is thanks to her [Jacinda] and the team of 5 million”.

In terms of transformational change, Salesa wants to do more for her community in terms of affordable housing. The UN special rapporteur said earlier this year that New Zealand was in the midst of a “housing crisis”.

“We’re very, very aspirational - we want to do more in housing, health and education.” Salesa said.

Updated

Ardern 'cautiously optimistic' says finance minister

New Zealand Finance Minister Grant Robertson has told Reuters that he spoke to Jacinda Ardern and that she is “cautiously optimistic”.

Robertson says that if the numbers hold it will be “a very strong mandate”.

Bridges says Nationals “didn’t have a plan” and offers “credit to Ardern”.

Former leader of the National party Simon Bridges has said at the Nationals event that tonight looks like a massive majority for Labour “with a mandate to do whatever they want”.

Updated

No press conference from National's Judith Collins tonight

Charlotte Graham-McLay writes:

I’ve confirmed from the National camp that Judith Collins, the party leader, does not plan to give the traditional post-match press conference after her speech tonight. She plans to speak and then leave.

There are a couple of hundred people at the National headquarters in Auckland, and no sign of Collins yet.

Updated

This is looking like a good night for the Green Party, although things might look a bit better for them if the Labour vote fades.

The Green Party is currently on track for eleven seats, which would be their third-best result, only falling short of the fourteen they won in 2011 and 2014. Plus they are currently on track to win in Auckland Central (although a loss there won’t make any difference to their total seat count).

Yet the Green Party may find themselves back on the opposition benches if Labour can win a solid majority in their own right and govern alone. Yet if Labour’s seat count drops to 59 or 60, Green support may become more crucial than ever.

At the Labour election event, deputy Labour leader Kelvin Davis has told the Guardian the results were “looking good” and there had been “a few surprises”.

Davis said the party would wait till 10pm to “see how it all panned out”. If given a second term Davis wanted Labour to improve on housing targets and tackling child poverty.

“But we have strong stable government and we want to continue that through”.

This is not only a stunning (in a bad way) vote for National in terms of the party vote, i.e. people who ticked “National” on their ballots, but also in the electorate vote, i.e. the local candidates that voters are picking.

There are 13 National incumbents in electorates currently in line to lose their seats. Some of those losses are narrow and it’s early days, so they are likely to change. But some of those incumbent electorate candidates will be very nervous.

Their election night event remains very sober (figuratively and literally – it’s a cash bar). There is a lot of chatter but absolutely no reaction to results as they are updated. One MP present, Melissa Lee, is still claiming that she “hasn’t really seen” the results, although they are on a large screen on the wall.

There are signs of movement at Ardern’s house. We’re told a van has just tried to back into her driveway, but has met a the vexing foe that is a locked gate.

The night so far: extraordinary election for Labour

Just to sum up, tonight is developing into an absolutely extraordinary night for Labour.

It has been called a “bloodbath” for National.

Labour’s lead is not being eroded as more votes are counted, to the extent that the party is on the verge of being able to form government alone, something that hasn’t happened for any party in the country since New Zealand introduced its MMP voting system in 1996.

30% of votes counted: Labour ahead

Just under a third of votes have now been counted (in just 90 minutes) and Labour is still comfortably ahead with what is currently projected to be a historical 66 projected seats in parliament.

Green Party Candidate for Auckland Chloe Swarbrick meets supporters during the Greens Party Election Function in Auckland, New Zealand
Green Party Candidate for Auckland Chloe Swarbrick meets supporters during the Greens Party Election Function in Auckland, New Zealand Photograph: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has also voted on two key referendums this year – whether to legalise cannabis and whether to legalise euthanasia.

On the TVNZ, the public broadcaster, a commentator just reminded viewers that we won’t know the results of these referendums until 30 October.

So, she said, “you can put your jazz cabbage away” for now.

Updated

The early trend suggests the Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters will not be returned to parliament.

His party, New Zealand First, which governed in coalition with Labour, has 2.3 % of the party vote with 23% counted. That’s way below the 5% needed.

Shane Jones, NZ First’s best electorate hope, is a distant third in the race for Northland and looks a forlorn chance even with just 15% of votes counted.

Jacinda Ardern won the seat of Mount Albert at a by-election in 2017 after nine years in Parliament as a Labour list MP.

She was re-elected at the general election in 2017 with 64.5% of the electorate vote, a whopping 40.3% margin over her National rival.

Right now she’s on almost 71% of the electorate vote, which translates to a 51-point margin over National list MP Melissa Lee.

And video of that arrival:

I’m not at the ACT party’s election night event, but I’m told the party leader, David Seymour, has just arrived by boat, pulling off his life jacket as he arrives.

Seymour is going to be one of the winners of the night. His Libertarian party has in the past been seen as faintly comedic, and so has he – but in the past couple of years he has got serious – coming across as almost an opposition leader-type figure during Covid-19 as National roiled with internal dysfunction.

And now he’s riding high – polling at more than 7%. He’s currently ACT’s only lawmaker in parliament but that will change after the election – on current polling, he’d have nine more MPs joining him.

Unfortunately for Seymour his natural coalition party, National, is not doing well.

You can read our profile of him here.

The first MP to arrive at National party headquarters was Melissa Lee. She’s standing in Mt Albert against Jacinda Ardern, so it’s safe to say she won’t win her seat. But since she’s 16th on National’s list, she would scrape back into parliament on the numbers so far.

Melissa Lee speaks to RNZ’s deputy political editor Craig McCulloch.
Melissa Lee speaks to RNZ’s deputy political editor Craig McCulloch. Photograph: Online

“It’s early days,” she just told Radio New Zealand, of the result. Asked what a good result for National would be, she said “a good result is a good result.”

She also seemed to blame Covid-19 somewhat – Auckland only came out of the last restrictions of its second lockdown less than a fortnight ago and she pointed out that this has hampered campaigning for the city’s candidates.

Door knocking was barred until last month and they couldn’t have more than 100 people in a room until less than two weeks ago.

Former member of parliament Peter Dunne has told RNZ that this is a “once in a hundred year” election for Labour, and the “sea of red” is extraordinary and unprecedented.

Many of the Labour candidates are so scantly known journalists are scrambling to google who they are. Virtual unknown Sarah Pallett has won more than 2000 votes above Ilam’s Gerry Brownlee – a stalwart of the National party. Pallett is a former midwife and is now a midwifery lecturer.

1000 people are trickling into town hall where Labour will hold their - what is now looking like - victory party. Deputy leader Kelvin Davis is strolling around the party smiling and shaking hands. He said he is yet to speak to Ardern, and wouldn’t comment on whether he would like to be deputy PM. But his relaxed and confident demenour says it all.

It’s getting loud at Labour now - drinks, or victory?

In 2017, National won 41 out of 71 electorates, with Labour winning 29 and ACT winning one. The redistribution created one new National seat. So that’s 42 National seats.

At the moment I estimate that Labour candidates are leading in nineteen of those National-held seats, with Green MP Chloe Swarbrick leading in National-held Auckland Central.

I doubt that trend will entirely hold, but this would leave the National Party with just 22 electorates, along with one ACT, one Green and a whopping 48 Labour electorates.

Of course, the party list will partly compensate for that landslide defeat, but it’s a sign of the collapse in National support.

20% of votes counted: Labour ahead

A fifth of votes have now been counted, just over an hour after polls closed.

Labour is still ahead and still projected to win an outright majority for the first time (for any party) since the MMP system was introduced in 1996.

With 30% counted for Auckland Central and the Greens’ Chlöe Swarbrick leads 6442 to 6042 for the Labour candidate.

It’s beginning to look like a good night for the Green Party which has 8 % of the party vote – worth 11 seats – with a fifth of votes counted.

Labour is polling strongly and if the early trend continues may be able to govern alone.

Updated

Labour supporters cheer as they watch the results come in during the New Zealand Labour party election night event in Auckland
Labour supporters cheer as they watch the results come in during the New Zealand Labour party election night event in Auckland Photograph: David Rowland/AAP

Nationals president says The National Party 'probably can't' win election

National Party president Peter Goodfellow has told Stuff.NZ’s Henry Cooke that his party “probably can’t” win the election:

He said the results were still early and he thought National would start doing better as the night went on - but he conceded that they were likely to lose the election.

‘Looking at this I think we probably can’t win it but I certainly think we will get a respectful number,’ Goodfellow said.

Updated

While the count is early, I don’t see much evidence that the vote is biased towards Labour-friendly areas.

The average proportion of the vote counted in Labour-held seats is 15.9%, while the average proportion in National-held seats is 15.5%.

While a relatively small shift back to the right may push Labour below a majority and require them to gain the support of the Green Party, it’s hard to see a right-wing government gaining a majority.

With 15% of the vote counted local political commentators are already calling the result a “blood bath” for the National party, with stalwarts such as Nick Smith of Nelson looking to have lost their seats.

Although it is early in the night town hall in Auckland is already in party mode, with frequent shouts, whoops and cheers emanating from the hall as the results stream in, thanks to nearly 2 million advance votes - nearly half the country’s enrolled voters.

Advance votes tend to favour the Labour party.

15% of vote counted: Labour ahead

With just over 15% of the vote counted, Labour is still ahead.

Their number of projected seats has increased to 66. A reminder that they need 61 to form government.

Some scenes from outside Jacinda Ardern’s house in Auckland:

Neighbours of Jacinda Ardern show their support outside her house
Neighbours show their support Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford delivers home cooked food to the media
Jacinda Ardern’s partner Clarke Gayford delivers home cooked food to the media Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

This is quite a shocking result so far – National is sitting at well below where the polls were placing them. While it’s still early, New Zealand has cemented an early vote total in place before.

The Spinoff reports that at the last election, in 2017, the results published at 7.12 pm recorded 3% of the vote counted. And those results were within tenths of a percentage point of where the election ended up falling. It was almost exactly accurate.

Updated

And on that point:

This Tweet pretty much sums up election day in New Zealand.

I walked past a polling place earlier where a woman was lying outside on the grass eating snacks and reading a book.

Of course, here in Auckland, the largest city, the last of the Covid-19 restrictions just lifted in the past fortnight. It’s hard to separate an election day like this – warm, bright sunshine, everyone allowed to walk around anywhere they please and do whatever they like, with Jacinda Ardern’s chances in this election.

It’s neck and neck in the Auckland Central electorate with 20% of the vote counted.

The Greens’ Chloe Swarbrick, with 3006, trails Labour’s Helen White with 3114.

The Greens haven’t won an electorate seat since 1999.

Updated

Over 10% of results counted: Labour ahead

With 10% of the vote being counted (a mind-boggling 40 minutes after polls closed) Labour is still comfortably ahead of National, with 65 projected seats.

A party or coalition needs 61 of Parliament’s 120 seats – usually about 48% of the vote – to form a government.

Updated

Labour Party members are arriving at the election night event in Auckland

Deputy leader Kelvin Davis arrives for the New Zealand Labour party election night event in Auckland
Deputy leader Kelvin Davis arrives for the New Zealand Labour party election night event in Auckland Photograph: David Rowland/EPA

State of the polling

Labour returned to government in 2017 despite polling 7.6% less than National on the party vote, thanks to stronger alliances with New Zealand First and the Green Party, who polled 13.5% collectively.

The MMP voting system makes it extremely difficult for a major party to govern alone. A party would need to poll close to 50% to win a majority in their own right.

Labour improved their polling following the 2017 election, taking the lead in 2018 and being mostly neck-and-neck with National for all of 2019.

Things changed in early 2020, when Jacinda Ardern’s popularity shot up amidst New Zealand’s fierce and mostly successful response to Covid-19. For a period in the middle of 2020, Labour repeatedly polled over 50% of the party vote, a figure unheard of in modern New Zealand history and enough to give Labour a single-party majority.

Recent polls have put New Zealand First well below 5% and ACT New Zealand above 5%, a result they haven’t achieved in close to twenty years. The Green Party was hovering close to the 5% threshold but have done better in the most recent polls.

The polls have tightened more recently, but they still point to Labour and Green winning a comfortable majority. The most recent Newshub-Reid Research poll gave Labour 45.8% of the party vote, with National on 31.1%, ACT on 7.4% and Green on 6.3%.

And at the New Zealand First event:

Guests enjoy the late evening sun at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell where New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters and supporters await election results on 17 October 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Guests enjoy the late evening sun at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel in Russell where New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters and supporters await election results on 17 October 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. Photograph: Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

And ACT:

ACT supporters enjoy an evening drink at HeadQuarters Bar on October 17, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.
ACT supporters enjoy an evening drink at HeadQuarters Bar on October 17, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand. Photograph: Greg Bowker/Getty Images

Updated

It’s a very muted atmosphere at the National party headquarters. I’m at an election night event at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron in Auckland. We’re expecting Judith Collins along later in the night.

In the first quarter hour of this party, there were more reporters here than National party members – but the room is now warming up. There was absolutely no sound when the first results went up on the screen – not even a disappointed one. Obviously it’s still very early in terms of results.

National was initially going to be at a larger venue – this isn’t a big room; it holds about 400 people. The party said they had changed venues in case there were still Covid-19 restrictions in place, although there are no such restrictions in place now.

I’ll keep you posted as MPs start to arrive.

Updated

More now on the domestic media reporting from outside Labour leader Jacinda Ardern’s house.

They say it is “very quiet” and “people are taking dogs for a walk in the mild spring evening.

No-one has spotted Ardern yet, but as we reported a moment ago, her partner Clarke Gayford has made an appearance. He told media he has spent the afternoon fishing and taking their daughter Neve for a stroll.

In 2017 Gayford set up a BBQ outside their home and cooked sausage sandwiches for waiting media. Today the menu is fried fish.

On Friday Gayford said he was looking forward to Saturday so he and Ardern could make “firmer plans” for the coming years. Gayford has been Neve’s primary caregiver, during Ardern’s three-year term.

Ardern has said if she loses today’s vote she will resign as Labour party leader and leave politics. Many have tipped Ardern to head for a role at the UN, though she has repeatedly denied this, saying she is focused on winning a second term.

Updated

5.5% counted: Labour ahead

Labour is still ahead of the opposition with 5.5% of the results counted.

Labour’s projected seats have increased to 66.
Nationals are projected at this stage to win 33 seats.

One more point on my post on the seats to watch minute ago:

The other thing to watch will be the overall electorate count. If Labour defeats National by a wide margin, you could see quite a lot of National electorates flip to Labour under the first past the post system.

The impact will be lessened by a greater number of list MPs, but it will be a symbolic blow to the party that governed New Zealand until 2017.

At Jacinda Ardern’s home, her partner Clarke Gayford has brought snacks to journalists waiting outside.

Ardern and Gayford’s daughter Neve has been “fighting bedtime,” he says.

Seats to watch

Most electorate races in New Zealand don’t particularly matter to the overall outcome, since the list seats compensate parties for a low electorate count. But there are a few that matter a lot.

An electorate win for a minor party is a guarantee that they will stay in parliament, even if their vote drops below 5%. ACT New Zealand last polled over 5% of the party vote in 2002, but has stayed in parliament thanks to the party holding the inner Auckland seat of Epsom. National overwhelmingly wins the party vote in Epsom but conservative Epsom voters usually split their vote to give a lifeline to a reliable National ally.

The Green Party has not won an electorate since the 1999 election, but Green MP Chloe Swarbrick is contesting the inner city seat of Auckland Central, and two polls have her polling far above the levels normally seen for Green Party electorate candidates. She was still polling third in the most recent polls, but if some Labour voters were to switch to vote for her it would protect the Green Party in case of their vote dropping, as looked possible not that long ago.

Two other parties are also looking to win electorates as a way to enter Parliament. The Maori Party once held five of the seven Maori electorates, and have never won enough party votes to win list seats above and beyond their electorates. The party lost its last two seats to Labour in 2017, but a win in any of these seats would bring them back into Parliament.

The Opportunities Party is also putting up a strong challenge in the Wellington-area seat of Ohariu, which consistently sent United Future leader Peter Dunne to Parliament even as his party vote collapsed prior to his retirement in 2017.

Labour’s deputy leader, Kelvin Davis, has arrived at town hall. He will speak before Jacinda Ardern around 9pm tonight, depending on the timing of results.

2.2% counted: Labour ahead

Results are coming in thick and fast, with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour party ahead of the opposition.

Labour has 64 projected seats. The National Party has 34.

1.2% counted: Labour ahead

With 1.2% of the votes counted the Labour party is ahead of Nationals, with their projected seats sitting at 64, ahead of National’s 34:

Updated

Supporters are starting to trickle into Auckland’s town hall where Labour is holding their election night party.

The atmosphere is less fevered than in 2017, when Jacidna Ardern had been elected just 7 weeks before voting day.

Then, at 37, she was untested and promised “transformational” change for New Zealand, saying she wanted to eradicate child poverty, get Kiwis into affordable housing and tackle the climate crisis. The defining features of her leadership however have been crises, with the PM handling a pandemic, a terrorist attack and a volcano eruption in her 3 years as leader.

0.7% of the votes counted: Labour ahead

With 0.7% of the votes counted, Labour is ahead:

We’ve just heard that we might know who has won the election as early as 9pm tonight – that’s in just two hours’ time.

Polls close

It is 7pm in New Zealand and polls have closed.

We expect the first results to be in in 10 minutes’ time.

It’s likely that we’ll know the winner tonight. Until that moment, we’ll be bringing you results and analysis as they come in, as well as updates from our reporters on the ground.

It’s five minutes until polls close and we emerge, squinting into the glare, from the blackout.

We expect the first results to be out by 7.10pm.

In the meantime, here is where to find tonight’s New Zealand election team on Twitter:

Updated

In the absence of political social media, New Zealand voters traditionally post pictures of their dogs at the paw-ling – I mean polling – stations.

Here are some of the cutest pupdates:

Restrictions

So: time for more detail on the particular details we’re not allowed to discuss (in detail or in general) until polls close in 20 minutes’ time.

Election day in New Zealand means no billboards, no walkabouts and no last-minute exit polls, with the election act ruling that all political parties must cease campaigning on polling day (that’s today). They are not allowed to promote themselves or influence voters in any way and must pull down billboards and stop radio and TV advertising.

Politicians are also banned from driving in branded cars or wearing any items of clothing that promote their party.

The law also extends to news media and social media.

We’re unable to publish or broadcast anything that may influence voters’ decisions. This includes the latest poll numbers, profiles of the leaders or analysis from pundits.

That is, until the clock strikes seven.

When will we know who has won

Results will start coming in from 7pm tonight (NZDT).

With nearly 2 million or 60% of the enrolled population having already voted we should have a good idea of the results fairly quickly.

The New Zealand electoral commission has the following results targets:

  • Results from 50% of voting places by 10:00pm
  • Results from 95% of voting places by 11:30pm

We should know the winner tonight but that said, since New Zealand introduced mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) for the 1996 general election, neither National nor Labour has won an outright majority.

What usually happens is the government forms a coalition with one or more other parties.

Updated

More than 1.9 million people voted early

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, a record number of voters chose to cast an early or advance vote this year, with more than 1.9m people – or 57% of the enrolled population – having already voted.

That’s nearly three in five of those enrolled. Most of these votes should be counted reasonably quickly.

As of the end of Friday, over 1.9 million New Zealanders had cast an advance vote. This compared to a total of 1.24 million advance votes in 2017, which was itself a record.

Updated

More on how Aotearoa New Zealand’s MMP system works:

Any party that polls over 5% of the party vote, or wins at least one electorate, is entitled to its share of the remaining 48 list MPs. Parties that don’t reach this threshold do not win any seats.

The list is designed to compensate for the lack of proportionality in the local electorates, so this will usually mean that parties which don’t win electorates will win a larger share of the list MPs.

The electorates are divided into 65 general electorates and 7 Maori electorates. Maori voters get a choice every five years as to whether they are enrolled on the general roll or the Maori roll, and the number of Maori seats is determined based on how many voters enrol on this special roll. The 7 Maori electorates cover the whole country, so each part of the country is part of two electorates.

A redistribution since the 2017 election added a new North Island seat. The North Island is covered by 49 general electorates, while the South Island is covered by sixteen.

MMP: how the electoral system works

New Zealand elects its parliament using the Mixed Member Proportional system, which involves electing local MPs to represent an electorate, and then electing top-up MPs who represent the whole country to ensure the parliament overall is proportional.

A party or coalition needs 61 of Parliament’s 120 seats – usually about 48% of the vote – to form a government.

Voters get two votes - a “candidate vote” to elect their local MP, and a “party vote” to decide the proportions in parliament. 72 local MPs are elected using first past the post to represent an electorate.

This means minor parties often play an influential role in determining which major party governs.

What to expect

Kia ora and welcome to our live coverage of the New Zealand election.

My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you results and reactions as they come in once polls close in an hour’s time, at 7pm NZDT.

Until then, New Zealand’s general election rules mean that we can’t publish or broadcast anything that might influence voters.

This means we cannot comment on who is likely or unlikely to win, for example.

What we can do during the next hour is explain, for those of you not familiar with it, how Aotearoa’s mixed member proportional (MMP) electoral system works as well as take a look at some of the key referendum issues on the table.

We might be able to bring you an update or two from candidates as they, too, stay firmly away from any campaigning – in accordance with the law of the land.

Throughout the night, you can get in touch with me on Twitter @helenrsullivan.

My Kiwi colleagues Eleanor Ainge Roy, Charlotte Graham-McLay and Phil Taylor will be bringing us live updates from the Labour, Nationals and Greens election events.

Electoral analyst Ben Raue will be bringing us, well, electoral analysis.

Results should start coming immediately after 7pm.

Updated

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