By Alex Tarrant
The Labour and Green parties would be able to form a government if an election were held today, according to the latest TVOne-Colmar Brunton poll.
And Prime Minister John Key accepts the question of potential coalition partners for National heading toward the 2014 election is a challenging one, as current partners ACT, United Future and the Maori Party languish in the one-three seat zone.
The Maori Party could in fact be holding the balance of power in 2014 according to another poll released on Sunday, this time a TV3-Reid Research poll. That's if the Maori Party holds onto the three seats it currently has.
Sunday's TVOne poll showed Labour up 3 points to 35%, National down 1 point to 44%, and the Green Party up 1 point to 13%. Winston Peters' New Zealand First was down 1 point to 4%, meaning it would not re-enter Parliament, given it did not win any electorate seats
That would give Labour 45 seats and the Greens 17, against National's 55 in a 123-seat Parliament.
The poll allowed the Mana Party (a possible Labour partner), ACT (possible National partner), and United Future (possibly both) one seat each, based on an assumption each party leader would win an electorate seat. The Maori Party (possibly both) was forecast to win three seats.
That meant National might be able to garner enough support for 60 seats (Nats, ACT, UF, Maori), not enough to defeat a coalition of the left.
Maori Party hold balance of power?
The TV3-Reid Research poll showed National with 47% of the vote, down 1.8 points from a month ago. That would amount to 59 seats. A seat each for ACT and United Future, if leaders John Banks and Peter Dunne, respectively, won their electorate seats, would give a potential National-ACT-UF government 61 seats.
But Labour's 34.6% (up 1.6 points) and the Greens' 12.9% (up 1.3%), would give them 43 and 16 seats, respectively, matching National's 59 seats. Assuming Hone Harawira'a Mana Party (one seat) is accepted into a coalition of the left leaves the Maori Party holding the balance of power with their three projected seats in a 124-seat Parliament.
Finding partners challenging
On TVOne's Breakfast programme on Monday morning, Prime Minister John Key said any election would always be tight.
“It’s natural you would see some recovery from Labour. They were at real historic lows – they had a disaster in election 2011, like we did in 2002. So they’re really getting that support back from New Zealand First and others,” Key said.
Asked about National's potential coalition partners going into 2014, Key said the issue would be a "challenge."
“But I think it’s worth remembering, we’re two years away [from the next election]. For a start-off, New Zealand First would go with Labour, but the question is, would New Zealand First get back, because a lot of Labour voters voted New Zealand First in 2011 because they knew their team wasn’t going to get there," Key said.
“Two years, look, it’s a long time in politics. A week is a long time; two years is an awfully long time. The public tend to work it out," he said.
“They will say, 'do we want National and whoever else, or do we want Labour, the Greens and New Zealand First.' I think they will look at us, because, in the end, I picked up the Herald this morning and there is a [Green] member of Parliament saying ‘no’ to more jobs. And it’s not going to be any more complex than that.
“The Greens are fundamentally opposed to progress. It’s all very well Labour talking about things – I don’t happen to agree with a lot of it – but the Greens with Labour will stop economic growth. And I think that’s what New Zealanders will be confronted with.”
While some industries were facing job losses, “tens of thousands” of new jobs had been created under the National-led government.
“The last 12 months have been pretty tough around the world. A couple of governments around the world have been hammered really. If you look at Hollande in France – the French President – he lost half of his support in the first five months. More support than any leader," Key said.
“You’ve got to accept these are tough times, you make tough decisions.”
The government was on the right track to resolve issues like unemployment over time.
“I accept there are frustrations. Things aren’t going as fast as people would want, and internationally we are held back by those big headwinds. We need to be realistic about that," Key said.
Meanwhile, the latest Roy Morgan poll at the end of November also projected a close-run affair: