Behind closed doors in every political party, as an election approaches will be statisticians crunching the numbers. They will be looking at past voting trends and trying to correlate them with their employers performance to see how those trends compare with now. They will be looking for signs of a potential swing in voting patterns, lest their party finds itself on the outer.
In National and Labour the strategists will also be looking at how the voting patterns and blocs may affect coalition negotiations post-election. The small parties will be reliant on a knock on the door or a phone call inviting them to come and talk before the elections.
There is one party however that will be different. New Zealand First is not known as a party that is in the habit of negotiating deals with political parties until after an election has happened on the understanding that the New Zealand voter needs to first decide who they want to hold office. This is based on the idea no one will know who is capable of forming a coalition until the voters decide. This is also based on the knowledge that if deals are announced before voters go to the polls, they might think it is done deal contrary to New Zealand principles of being a democracy, and stay home. It is for these reasons I always find it a mystery why so many people criticize Mr Peters being coy, when he is simply acknowledging a universal truth:
The people need to vote first!
Mr Peters has said that New Zealand First will not enter into a coalition with a party that raises the minimum age of being entitled to superannuation to one greater than 65. National, one of two parties most likely to be the senior member of the M.M.P. Government, has just done exactly that.
It is possible that New Zealand First may wind up having enough seats to sit on the cross benches and decide what legislation passes and what does not. If so, then that may assume it has, say, 13 M.P.’s whilst National and Labour have 45 a piece; the Greens pick up 14 whilst A.C.T., United Future and the Maori Party remain unchanged. For National to pass anything it needs all of the minor parties plus New Zealand First to support the legislation. Labour on the other hand needs just New Zealand First and their natural allies, the Greens, or the Maori Party plus – in certain cases – United Future.
It seems likely National will prop up A.C.T. in Epsom to avoid losing their only natural ally in Parliament. A National victory in Epsom would destroy A.C.T. as a political force.
Likewise, United Future – better off named the Peter Dunne Party – would be destroyed if it lost to National or Labour in Ohariu. Both have stood in the past, or are standing at this election, candidates capable of taking the electorate off Mr Dunne.
But would the Maori Party be a deciding factor in this election? Possibly, and in ways people might not expect. If the Maori Party were resurgent on matters that concern Maori the most, they could take 5 of the 7 Maori seats. This would either deprive Labour of critical numbers in Parliament or encourage the party to join New Zealand First on the cross benches dictating which legislation should proceed and which should not.
So, let the number crunching begin – I am sure it already has. But let us also be certain, that no one is forming a coalition in reality until they know how many M.P.’s they will have to work with.
And that will not be known until 23 September 2017.