Political commentator Matthew Hooton says Winston Peters' recent criticism of his own coalition partner is likely a tactic for re-election.
Mr Peters made headlines this week when he hit out at Labour over its handling of the abortion legislation, saying the issue should go to a referendum.
He told Sky News that his was the only party which had acting in good faith over the legislation, and said the issue was never included in coalition talks.
He has also been at odds with some in Labour over the Ihumātao protest.
Speaking this morning to TVNZ 1's Breakfast programme, Mr Hooton said the perceived schism could be a tactic to assure voters he is not "Labour's poodle" when it comes to election time.
His power comes from being a wild card, Mr Hooton said, and likely wants to be seen as being able to go either way.
"On Election Day when people go to the polling places .. he needs them to think he is neutral between National and Labour - if he doesn't secure that, he's probably not going to get to five per cent," Mr Hooton said.
"More importantly from his perspective, He needs to be able to genuinely negotiate with Labour and Naitonal and they both have to fear that he'll go with the other.
"He can't flounce out of the Government the way he did out of Jenny Shipley's government, because that would look like he's completely unreliable - some people might say he actually is - but he'll want to do this progressively.
""He needs to be independent again, so this is the beginning of that process."
Watch the full interview above.