So is the election now a foregone conclusion? With Jacindamania still raging, and the National Party shattered by its own shambolic performance, it looks like a walk in the park for the Labour Party and its coalition partners.
Certainly NZ First leader Winston Peters wasn’t slow to rub salt into the wounded Nats.
After a cursory nod to National’s departed leader Todd Muller (“ a good man”), Peters said:
“National has demonstrated to voters as clearly as it is able that it cannot govern itself. During a time of crisis, when stability and real experience is what the country needs from its politicians and their parties, National’s instability and hubris takes it out of the running for the coming General Election.”
Swinging the boot a bit harder, Peters went on:
“Leading a divided and incompetent caucus would have tested even the best leader.
“The National caucus now has the unenviable job of selecting its fourth leader since the Coalition Government took office.
“The National caucus, like too many parties in parliament, lacks business experience, life experience and political experience. Heaven only knows who will be the next cab off the ranks selected to lead such a dispirited and incompetent lot.
“Todd never had a chance given the fault lines of ambition, personality, and ideology that run deep through the National Party caucus.”
This much is clear: we can safely draw the conclusion Peters thinks he won’t have to make a choice of coalition partners once voters have made their decision.
But how will NZ First itself fare? Recent polling has had it well below the 5% threshold. Many of those who voted for it in 2017 have become disillusioned with it as an ally of Labour.
Does it think one-time National voters will now flock to it?
Peters himself, after recovery from keyhole surgery, promises to be “fighting fit” for the election campaign. And he has displayed remarkable stamina for a man in his 76th year.
But the problem for NZ First is that it may not have much appeal to that bloc of voters eager to ensure there is a brake on a Labour-Green coalition, if it appears Labour will get a majority on its own, or close to it.
As for the Greens, they too might be battling to break the 5% threshold, since Ardern’s popularity has inevitably drawn some one-time Green voters back towards Labour.
Analysis by political scientist Bryce Edwards has suggested the Green Party could go from helping Jacinda Ardern run the country to being turfed out of Parliament altogether in ten weeks.
Edwards says the Greens have been consistently polling precariously close to the 5% threshold needed by parties who don’t hold an electorate seat. In fact, since the last election which saw the Greens win 6.3% of the vote and become part of the Labour-led government, their polling has been stuck below that level.
They have recorded an average of only 5.7% by the country’s two main polling companies. And since the start of the year, this average has been trending downwards to just 5.4%.
“Unfortunately for the Greens, they consistently do worse in elections than their polling predicts.”
As Point of Order sees it, the Green Party’s policy, including the idea of a “wealth tax” , won’t do much to attract voters who previously voted National and are currently disillusioned with its leadership shambles.
Could the present electoral scenario offer an opening for small parties on the right to rise above the 5% threshold?
ACT, for example, has been inching up in the polls over the past 12 months, and its leader David Seymour is now a respected figure for his work on the euthansia legislation.
At the party’s campaign launch ACT made a play for single-vote groups as in the gun-owning lobby. But it has also put up interesting new policy such as employment-insurance which could have broad appeal, come September, when the ranks of the unemployed may be soaring because of the pandemic-induced recession.