Editorial: No margin for error

Is the election a foregone conclusion? All five major polls now have National cresting 50 per cent. Most have Labour at or below 30. That will tempt people to the conclusion that the election is all over bar the campaign jingles. It is not.

Under MMP, the gap between National and Labour does not matter. It is the gap between the alternative groups that counts.

Labour, the Greens, and Kim Dotcom's Internet-Mana Party are all committed to getting National out. Neither the Maori Party nor NZ First will say who they would back.

Maori Party members and supporters have often made it clear they prefer Labour.

They back National now simply because it is better to have the bit of power that National offers than sit powerless on the Opposition benches.

Winston Peters has a track record of backing whosoever offers him the biggest baubles. Remember 1996? Remember 2005?

Put them all together and most of those polls put them around 47 per cent, easily within striking distance of victory.

Polls, too, should not be relied on too much. At every one of the past four general elections National has failed to get the vote that polls predicted.

Polls published in the week before polling day gave National ratings of up to 56 per cent. But their actual result was 47 per cent.

National almost lost. Just a few thousand votes separated John Key from having to rely on the Maori Party - whose support he might not have been granted.

However, the precedent that will give most hope to Labour and its potential allies, and most terror to National, is last year's MMP election in Germany.

In that vote, the main parties of the right got 51 per cent of the vote, mostly for the Christian Democrats led by Angela Merkel. But two key allies narrowly missed the 5 per cent threshold.

Merkel missed out on a majority and was forced into a humiliating grand coalition with the Social Democrats (Germany's version of Labour). The various parties' foot soldiers know all this and won't be complacent. But ordinary voters may be.

So take heed! If you stay at home believing your choice is a sure thing and doesn't need your vote, or your choice has no hope and won't benefit from it, you may be surprised.

The Southland Times