Slightly less than weeks out from the election of 2020, assuming the current One News Colmar-Brunton poll continues to hold, New Zealand could be looking at a once in a generation electoral landslide. For the first time since Mixed Member Proportional was introduced, New Zealand might be about elect a majority party Government where a single party has enough seats to govern alone.
Whilst it is true New Zealand has come close in the in past, getting near the 61 seat majority mark is one thing. Crossing it is quite another.
National nearly achieved this in 2011 and 2014. In the 2011 General Election it won 59 seats; up one from the 2008 General Election result; Labour slumped from 42 seats down to 34, which were picked up by a resurgent New Zealand First and the Green Party. In 2014 National reached 60 seats, but lost one to the Greens in a recount. Labour were reduced further to 32 seats. Even in 2017, despite not being chosen by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters as their coalition partner, National still managed 56 seats.
If Labour did somehow secure 61 or more seats in the House of Representatives, it would be the first time since 1994 that a major political party has achieved a majority. It would raise significant public expectations about what policies might be achieved because Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has much mana with New Zealanders across the spectrum and is widely respected by non-New Zealanders as well. Significant areas that voters would want to see movement on are reforming/replacing the District Health Boards; improving the supply of housing for ordinary New Zealanders; reducing poverty and addressing how our energy sector will look in the era of climate change. Given that at the 2023 election one should expect National to have found a person who can challenge Ms Ardern by then, and have some more realistic policies than their current shambles, I expect much of the ground that Labour will probably gain at this election will be clawed back.
This may be a once in a generation election for other reasons too. The number of new political parties that have formed in the last 12 months to take on the larger parties is quite impressive. Whilst none are polling close to the 5% threshold for entry into Parliament, or are likely to win an electorate seat, they are likely – between them – to chip away enough votes that New Zealand First will probably not get into Parliament; that New Conservative will be the largest party outside Parliament.
Advance New Zealand/New Zealand Public Party will be the one New Zealanders watch most warily, not least because of the incandescent bile being jetted by some of their supporters. There has been at least one case of people suggesting that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern should be assassinated, which not surprisingly got the Police involved. There have also been Advance/N.Z.P.P. gatherings that have caused community leaders who have a social media profile to be concerned for their well being, because of their support for the Government response to COVID19.
Even if no new parties in New Zealand get into Parliament, it is certainly going to make for a lively two remaining working weeks before we find out what New Zealanders really think.