Only a fool would make predictions on the outcome of this coming Saturday's general election. But here goes. Here are the questions which everyone is asking. And here are some answers.
Who is going to win?
The oracles have spoken. The high priests and priestesses have passed judgment.
The betting —literally — is that Labour will be the victor by a narrow margin.
That is the unanimous verdict of Australia’s biggest bookies. New Zealand’s TAB does not yet offer betting on what it calls “novelty prediction events”.
Across the Tasman, however, the likes of Centrebet, William Hill and Sportsbet are paying around $1.83 on Labour being the party whose leader will be sworn in as prime minister once post-election negotiations have determined who governs.
Those agencies are offering as much as $2.30 on National’s leader ending up with the top job. (For the record, a $1 bet on Winston Peters or James Shaw would return $73 if either leader became prime minister. This election has witnessed much in the way of big surprises, but flying pigs have yet to be one of them.)
What is worth noting is that the Aussie bookmakers are not defining victory according to which party wins the most seats, but which party “delivers” the prime minister.
In every one of the seven elections held since New Zealand’s adoption of a proportional representation voting system, the party winning the most seats has gone on to form the government.
Things may turn out to be very different in 2017. It is very possible that the parties with the second and third biggest share of the vote — most likely Labour and New Zealand First — may co-operate to shut National— the party favoured to win the biggest share — out of of power.
On current polling, National is averaging around 42 per cent of the vote — a level which would see that party securing around 54 seats — six less than it has now.
That would leave Bill English seven short of a majority and without enough friends to make up the difference. Peter Dunne is gone. The Maori Party may likewise no longer be in Parliament.
Voters in the Auckland constituency of Epsom might rebel and ignore the ongoing instruction from on high to cast their electorate vote for Act’s David Seymour.
Labour, which is averaging about 40 per cent, would win about 51 seats — a whopping 19 more than the party currently holds.
While voter backing for New Zealand First has been on the slide, Winston Peters can expect to return to Parliament with at least 10 seats under his belt and — under the above scenario — the balance of power seemingly in his pocket.
If the numbers fall that way on election night, the “monarch-maker” may find the decision as to with whom he goes into government has been made for him, however.
First, if Labour wins more seats than National on Saturday, there will be a change of government full stop. Peters could not ignore such a hurricane-force gale for change.
Opting instead to prop up a fourth-term National-led government would be to sign his own party’s death warrant.
Second, those constraints on Peters’ negotiating power will still apply, although to a lesser degree, if National wins the most seats but only two or three more than Labour as in the above scenario.
English’s hopes of victory depend on him either securing sufficient numbers in the House to enable National to rule alone or getting very close to it, or, for “Jacindamania” to fail to translate into votes for Labour to the extent the polls have been indicating.
If English cannot make headway on either score, Jacinda Ardern and Peters could contemplate forming a two-party coalition.
It is not uncommon in Scandinavian democracies for the largest party to find itself excluded from a governing arrangement.
All the above should not be regarded as predictive. It simply outlines the more likely scenarios in the mix on Saturday night. Not much of it adds up to good news for English, however.
Will the Greens still have MPs in Parliament once the votes are counted?
Yes. The Greens have enough friends in the inner suburbs of metropolitan New Zealand who are willing to forego casting their party vote for Labour to ensure their centre-left allies are not cast into the wilderness.
These voters have another motive for ensuring the Greens do not fall below the 5 per cent threshold. The arithmetic of MMP means the wasted votes for the Greens would mean more seats for National.
Will the Maori Party survive?
Goodbye Te Ururoa Flavell. The Maori Party currently holds only one of the seven Maori electorates. A resurgent Labour Party is about to reduce that number to zero.
Will Gareth Morgan and The Opportunities Party climb above the 5 per per cent threshold and into Parliament?
You really can teach an old dog (or cat) old tricks.
TOP says it commissioned a market research company to get a handle on voters’ attitudes to the fledgling party.
TOP says between 4 to 5 per cent of voters were either committed to voting for the party or were “most likely” to do so, while another 11 per cent were “considering” voting for TOP.
Such findings are designed to allay voter fears that a vote for the party is a wasted vote. To the party’s credit, it is upfront about the purpose of such research.
If Morgan and his fellow political neophytes are to escape the “wasted vote syndrome”, however, the party needs to register support at around the 6 to 7 per cent mark in both of the two remaining television polls prior to Saturday.
Even then voters would want confirmation that such backing was part of a trend and not just a one-off. It is too late for that. Time has run out for TOP— at least at this election.
Will Hone Harawira return to Parliament as the MP for Te Tai Tokerau after three years on the outer?