Nationals could oust Helen Clark’s Labour in New Zealand
The Nationals have led in the opinion polls since the middle of 2006, although their lead over the Labour government of Helen Clark really took off in the first few months of 2007. In the middle of this year, the Nationals were recording leads of over 20 points, although Labour have mounted a mini-recovery since then to close the gap to single figures in one or two polls, although typically the lead has been into the teens.
Labour have probably been helped during the campaign by being able to act during the economic crisis, the government guaranteeing all retail bank deposits as the party launched its campaign, and have enjoyed a polling boost along with other centre-left parties such as Labour in the UK, the Democrats in the US and Germany’s SPD.
New Zealand uses the Mixed Member Proportional system of PR (also used in Germany, Scotland, Wales), with 120 seats up for grabs. Labour are seeking their fourth term, and if the Nationals are to become the new government, they will need to secure as many of the 61 seats needed on their own, as they will be short of allies in the new parliament.
On the centre-left, Labour, the Greens, and Progressives may be able to secure about 55 seats between them, with the balance of power quite possibly being held by a handful of Maori MPs. PB regular Stodge, who has been posting updates on NZ, commented recently that “I think it could be a very close finish but my view is that National will form the next Government with Maori support”.
This is the first New Zealand election that I’ve followed in any depth, but my “gut feel” too is that John Key will be the next PM at the head of a National government. The (low on liquidity) Betfair market is here and I’ve been backing the Nationals for months, buying at 1.3 and above. So, if you’re not tired of elections after Tuesday and Thursday, an early start on Saturday could be rewarded with a tight finish in New Zealand.