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More election deals than ever before

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 16/02/2017 Peter Wilson, Political Writer
United Future Leader, Peter Dunne. © RNZ / Alexander Robertson United Future Leader, Peter Dunne.

National is doing it again, Labour and the Greens are doing it but won't admit it, and the Maori Party and Mana probably aren't far behind.

There are more electorate deals ahead of the September 23 general election than ever before.

And under MMP it makes sense - it's surprising it hasn't happened earlier than this.

Because the party vote determines how many seats each party holds, they can afford to give away electorate seats if that helps their ultimate cause.

National will again give Epsom to ACT by campaigning for just the party vote and letting its supporters know they should give their candidate vote to David Seymour.

The same will happen in Ohariu, where National wants United Future's Peter Dunne to retain the seat.

The Greens aren't putting up a candidate in Ohariu so that Labour's new high profile candidate, Greg O'Connor, gets a clear run at Dunne.

The Maori Party and Mana are due to sign an agreement on Monday which is expected to involve deals in Waiariki and Te Tai Tokerau.

These deals are usually worked out on the basis of what happened in previous elections, but there's no certainty they will all deliver the intended results.

It's safe to say ACT will retain Epsom because it's the oldest deal around and the voters have shown they know the rules of the game.

Ohariu is much more interesting and less certain.

The popular media perception is that O'Connor has been given an easy ride into parliament.

That's based on the calculation that Dunne's vote in 2014 was 13,569 while the combined vote of the Labour and Greens candidates was 15,623.

It's assumed, probably correctly, that if there's no Green candidate the party's supporters will back Labour's man.

But it's not that simple, because there was a National Party candidate in the field in 2014.

Brett Hudson won 6120 votes, although in theory National's supporters should have given their ticks to Dunne.

Dunne describes reports about his imminent demise as "wildly inaccurate, ridiculously sensational and devoid of any factual basis".

"At the last election, just under 54 per cent of Ohariu voters voted for either the United Future or National Party electorate candidates," he said.

"About 42 per cent supported either the Green or Labour candidates."

Dunne says Labour and the Greens are making "the heroic assumption" that the 16 per cent of voters who supported National's candidate will do so again in September.

"Yet if only a third of those voters shifted their support to the United Future candidate, the Labour/Greens dream would be all over," said Dunne.

"Ohariu voters are very intelligent, and capable of working out very easily what is in their strategic best interests."

As Dunne has held the seat since 1984, he knows the electorate pretty well and maybe he's right.

Another big factor to consider is the party vote.

In Ohariu in 2014 National won 18,810, Labour 8771 and the Greens 5623.

"In both the candidate and party votes in 2014, Ohariu voters showed a clear majority preference for supporting the current governing arrangement," Dunne said.

"This is not a `change the government' electorate, so appeals to vote for the Labour/Green candidate are likely to fall on deaf ears."

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