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Political Picks: 2011 Election Scenario

Political Picks: 2011 Election Scenario

Analysis - By Keith Rankin

Except for the Horizon poll - which examines and reports the all-important "undecided" vote - the political polls are all suggesting there will be another centre-right government after the November 2011 election. The important, though underreported, Horizon poll of 24 May however suggests the five opposition parties have a four percentage point lead over the four parties that comprise the present government.

I'm picking that continued high dairy prices and the World Cup will be sufficient to get the National-led government over the line in November, but only just. My guess is that National/Maori will get about 48% of the seats, and Act will get 5-6%. Thus National and Maori would appear to need Act support in order to govern.

I'm also picking that Act will play hard-ball, trying to push National into an aggressive programme of "fiscal consolidation" (ie retrenchment of government spending), asset sales and granting Dr Brash the role of Finance Minister. And I'm picking that National will resist such pressure, not wanting New Zealand to move into a 1930s' style depression.

If I'm right, then Act may decide to vote against a National-led government on a vote of confidence (or abstain if that would be enough to bring down the Key Government). Thus I can see Dr Brash playing a similar role to Bob Jones in 1984, to bring down a centrist National-led government and replace it with a fiscally conservative Labour Government whose survival will depend on Act's tacit support. Act facilitating a Labour-led government is not as far-fetched as it might at first seem, especially if we bear in mind the 1980s, and that Act was spawned by Labour.

With a possible MMP/FPP referendum scheduled for the first election after 2011, an Act-enabled Labour-led government would be subject to the ever present threat of losing a vote of confidence. Act, whose Brashite supporters are opposed to MMP and other forms of proportional representation, would be happy under such circumstances to bring forward the 2014 referendum (should MMP not win enough support in 2011), having done their best to discredit MMP.

If this scenario comes about, then the only party that would be able to offer an alternative scenario will be the Greens. New Zealand First is locked into supporting Labour on confidence, given the events of 2008, and recent reaffirmations that Peters and Key could not work together.

If a Left-Right Labour-Act government looms, then it will be timely for the Greens to take their place in the centre, rather than on the left of the political spectrum. Thus the alignment of parties in 2012 might be Labour, New Zealand First and Act on one side of the house (with first policies to made KiwiSaver compulsory and to raise the age of entitlement for New Zealand Superannuation to say 68), and a National, Maori, Green alignment of the political centre.

Actually, although it may seem an improbable alignment, I believe that a National-Maori-Green government would meet widespread popular approval. If this seems too much of a long-shot however for us to get our heads around, voters who would like a minority National government without Act having influence over it could look to vote for the Maori Party as a genuine centre party. Indeed there most likely will be Maori Party list MPs in the next Parliament, given a probable loss of electorate members.


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Keith Rankin teaches Economics in Unitec's Department of Accounting and Finance.

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