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Here’s to the election’s end

The 2023 general election is now done and dusted – hallelujah!

Well, other than waiting another two-and-a-half weeks for the Electoral Commission to count all the special votes and confirm the final results, of course.

Oh, and then there’s the added wrinkle of the November 25 Port Waikato by-election triggered by the untimely death of Act Party electorate candidate Neil Christensen, which might lead to the number of seats in Parliament being increased to 121.

The reasons for that are tediously technical [the internet is your fast friend if you insist on demanding to know the details] but suffice to say that exactly how this plays out may affect the perceived desirability of National negotiating with NZ First to become a coalition partner [as will where those special votes ultimately land].

And if clearing a place for Winston Peters and co at the Cabinet table is indeed on the cards, then we can look forward to the possibility of a protracted period of coalition negotiations, if history is any guide – the 2017 post-election negotiations took almost four weeks, for example, while those following the first MMP election in 1996 ate up two whole months.

The phrase “look forward to” is used advisedly rather than sarcastically in this instance, by the way.

Rather than seethe in frustration at the ongoing uncertainty regarding the exact makeup of the next government, it’s advised to seize this as an opportunity to experience the joy of life without the incessant drumbeat of politics.

It may be that the passing of 27 years has resulted in the golden glow of nostalgia distorting recollections of that dealmaking marathon, but some of us recall those eight weeks of the country coping without an actual government as a precious glimpse of an Arcadian ideal that we’d dearly love to live through again.

In any case, the election is over-ish, and we have an opportunity to take stock.

While people’s mileage will inevitably vary about the result, all the candidates who stood in Wairarapa deserve our admiration and thanks for running clean, collegial campaigns that saw the region spared the kind of divisive claims and behaviour that reportedly marred electoral contests in other parts of the country.

As such, it would appear that country folk are more civilised than our sophisticated city-dwelling cousins – who would’ve thought …?

So kudos to all the candidates – Peter Arnott, Mike Butterick, Simon Casey, Jared Gardner, Kieran McAnulty, Celia Wade-Brown, and Te Whakapono Waikare – as well as their supporters, and the region’s voters in general for showing the rest of New Zealand how to do democracy.

There’s some other good news too – it looks like Wairarapa is likely to have two MPs in Parliament, with McAnulty back via Labour’s list despite losing the seat to National’s Butterick, and there’s also an outside chance that the Green’s Celia Wade-Brown will also sneak in on the list.

Imagine what two [or three] MPs cooperating on behalf of the people of the region could achieve. It might even serve as a shining example of the kind of hands-across-the-aisle politics that MMP was supposed to help usher in 27 years ago but has been stymied by the major parties’ ongoing addiction to an adversarial approach.

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