Thursday, May 02, 2013

National's future coalition options

Writing on Stuff, Vernon Small highlights what's really at stake in the upcoming Ikaroa-Rawhiti by-election: National's future coalition options:

If between them he, Mr Jones and the Ikaroa-Rawhiti candidate can further wound the Maori Party, it will be a strategically important victory ahead of the 2014 election when Dr Sharples will be under pressure, and the retiring Mrs Turia's seat will be in the balance.

Similarly, on the undercard, the Mana Party will be looking for a good showing to out-poll the Maori Party.

Mr Key's options for future minor-party support are already dwindling.

Without a viable Maori Party - preferably with more seats than Mana - it is even more likely that dead rat will be on the National Party's menu in 2014, courtesy of Winston Peters and NZ First.

As amusing as that is, even that could be difficult. Why? Because NZ First's political niche will be contested by two other parties next election: Colin Craig's Conservatives, and the new farmer party Focus New Zealand. While each has a slightly different tone, they're all economically nationalist and socially conservative; they oppose asset sales, they view the high exchange rate as a problem requiring government intervention, they are suspicious of social change. In other words, they're all essentially competing for the same pool of voters. Unfortunately, thanks to our undemocratic 5% threshold, that could be bad for all three.

The longer-term is even more problematic. Winston will retire or die eventually, and NZ First will go with him. Unless one of the other parties can establish a foothold, or a credible new prospect emerges, National will require a majority in order to govern - a very tough ask in an MMP environment.