21/08/2017
Alex Eastwood-Williams
Opinion
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Peter Finished is Dunne (and how it effects the election)

Once again, the most unpredictable election we've ever had changes shape following the third major resignation in four weeks: this time of United Future's sole MP Peter Dunne. 

This decision completely alters the electoral landscape: Ohariu, which looked like it was about to become the most important seat in the country, now becomes irrelevant; It no longer matters whether Greg O'Connor or Brett Hudson carry the seat as neither result will lead to an overhang seat.

Whether the next Parliament has overhang seats is important, as based on recent polling it will mean the difference between a fourth term National government (or possible stalemate) and NZ First holding the balance of power, leaving open the possibility of a change in government.

The two most important seats in the country now become Waiariki (which will determine the fate of the Maori Party: Without them National lack a coalition partner; and if the Maori Party are needed to prop up a potential Labour-NZ First government, then it will mean Winston goes with National, or a hung parliament and fresh election) and Te Tai Tokerau.

I've said before that there is every chance Hone Harawira could return - and with Kelvin Davis now safe on Labour's list, there's less incentive for TTT voters to back him. If Harawira does get back in, it will probably create an overhang seat, benefiting National - and if the numbers start to run close, it would also make NZ First less likely to side with the left bloc as it would be cold day in hell before Winston sides with Hone.

Surprisingly, National will be benefited if ACT do badly nationwide but win Epsom - as this will also lead to an overhang. Polling for ACT is all over the place, ranging from 0.5% to 2%, although my gut instinct is that ACT have a serious chance of winning a second seat this election.

Nevertheless, if ACT do well, it will actually hurt National and help Labour, so National had better hope their poodle in Epsom doesn't have a bark that can heard elsewhere in the country.