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Tense Isn't The Word For It

If last week we thought we were in for a tight election, this week it is looking too close to call. The left have lost their advantage and are now on the back foot. The right continue to rise. New Zealand’s second MMP election looks set to be one of the closest in the country’s history with the minor parties and the unenrolled and undecided voters promising to prove crucial. Jonathan Hill reports.

Despite a spirited speech from Alliance leader Jim Anderton to launch his party’s campaign last weekend, the Alliance offices are surely among the tensest in the country, followed closely by Labour’s. The latest TVNZ Colmar Brunton Poll continues the post APEC trend of the rise of the right and the gap between Labour and National has simply ceased to exist.

It seems the Alliance are continuing to lose the war with New Zealand First for the elderly and anti-corporate constituent, despite an Alliance campaign to remind voters of what Winston did last time. The Alliance have lost major ground, falling two per cent to 4.5 per cent while the see-saw effect shows NZ First rising two per cent at their expense to six per cent. This is the Alliance’s worst polling in 18 months. See also… Scoop: The New Zealand First / Alliance Struggle from the Scoop archives.

The general electoral fortunes of the right can perhaps be illustrated by the fortunes of ACT. Only a few weeks ago, when the victory of Labour and the Alliance was basically being taken for granted, ACT were hovering dangerously close to the five per cent threshold, placing huge pressure on Richard Prebble to hold his Wellington Central seat. That pressure no longer exists with ACT rising sharply to seven per cent and launching a provincial tour which, in tandem with their controversial Treaty of Waitangi policy, could well net them significantly more votes.

Richard Prebble is also reflecting his party’s growing confidence and is looking infinitely more assured and relaxed in Wellington Central than Labour’s easily rattled Marian Hobbs.

National, ACT and United’s Peter Dunne are brimming with confidence right now and despite Jenny Shipley’s olive branch to Winston Peters in the Sunday Star Times last weekend they must be backing themselves to form a government without requiring the assistance of New Zealand First. This confidence is again reflected in Jenny Shipley jumping a huge 10 per cent in the preferred Prime Minister stakes which pollsters believe will inevitable spill over into increased party support.

And if the All Blacks win the World Cup as is widely expected…

Labour and the Alliance meanwhile will be frantically trying to work out where they are going wrong. With six weeks to go until D-Day they don’t have long to reverse what amounts to a strong trend in the polls. This TVNZ Poll puts Labour and the Alliance together on 43.5 per cent and National and ACT sit on 44 per cent.

It seems highly likely now that NZ First will be required to form another government. The Greens may well be influential, and perhaps crucial, if Jeanette Fitzsimons wins the seat of Coromandel and Labour would surely prefer to work with the Greens than New Zealand First. However the swelling support for NZ First is making them impossible to ignore.

The unpopularity of Winston Peters with both ACT and the Alliance especially, would make post election negotiations distinctly messy if this poll was an election result. ACT refuse to work with NZ First and Peters is promising to make Jenny Shipley pay for last time. The Alliance are fighting a personal, and what currently looks like a losing battle for votes with Peters and Labour will remember Peters rejecting them at the last election.

Labour will realise that a fourth term in opposition could destroy the party as we know it and will be desperate to do a deal. Peters must be rubbing his hands together and smiling in his sleep.

Messy, messy, messy. And likely to take some time to sort out with Peters promising to drive a hard bargain post election.

Tense isn’t the word for what looms in the next nasty six weeks.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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