Joshua Williamson of TD Securities is here to help:
Out of the nineteen registered parties in New Zealand, only two have any real ambition to lead the next Government out to 2011. These are the incumbent centre-left Labour Party and centre-right opposition National Party. Led by Prime Minister Helen Clarke, Labour has been in power since 1999 and if successful would start a fourth consecutive term in office. But opinion polls have placed the Labour Party behind the National Party, led by John Key, although the gap has been narrowing in recent months. A composite of opinion polls shows that the National Party still maintains the lead ahead of the Labour Party with the Green Party the most improved of the minor parties...
The better performance of the National Party is directly related to the weakening of the economy that has reflected badly on the incumbent government. This was despite the Government’s announcement of $10.6 billion worth of personal tax cuts that started on October 1. If the distribution of seats goes according to the general polling trend, the National Party would win 56 (currently holding 48 seats) of the 120 seats in the House of Representatives while Labour would pick up 42 seats (currently holding 50 seats).
But the performance of the Nationals would not give it enough seats to govern in its own right. In fact, neither of the major parties has held a majority since 1951, which makes the minor parties important players. Labour currently governs with the support of three other parties to give it a total of 65 seats in the House of Representatives. This time around, one of these parties, United Future has said that it will support the Nationals. All told, the Nationals can probably count on one other minor party for support. Labour, on the other hand, can probably count on support from four minor parties including the Green party. The cumulative impact of the six smaller parties, including the increase in support for the Green party could make the election result much closer than the polling for the two main parties currently suggests.
Despite the political horse-trading that will occur once the voting is tallied, the National Party should be the first past the post. The incumbent Labour Government is proving unpopular and the mood appears similar to that which saw the incumbent Liberal Government removed from power in Australia in November 2007 after voters decided that it had reached the end of its useful lifespan.