Coat-tail deals 'a few weeks away', says Key

Prime Minister John Key (photo credit: Rob Hosking)

Announcements on electorate seat deals for potential coalition partners are "a few weeks away" and will be announced at the same time, Prime Minister John Key says.

Speaking at his weekly post-Cabinet press conference in Wellington, Key acknowledged the government continues to consider electoral accommodations with three political parties ahead of the Sept. 20 general election: the Act and United Future parties, each of which have one MP, and the Maori Party.

A wild card is the Conservative Party led by Colin Craig, which has yet to win a parliamentary seat.

"Whether we do any, all or none of them, is a few weeks away," said Key of the potential deals, which he only offer meaningfully for Act, United Future and the Conservatives as National is weak in the Maori electorate of Waiariki where the Maori Party leader, Te Uruora Flavell, must win.

"We would like to do them all at the same time," said Key, noting there were 16 weeks to go to election day.

Asked whether he was willing still to do an electorate deal for Craig, Key said "he hasn't approached me", but believed Craig was not seeking such an arrangement, citing public comments earlier this year. More recently, Craig told Radio New Zealand it would be "great" if such a deal were offered.

All four parties will require a winnable territorial electorate seat if they are to be represented in the next Parliament because none will poll above the 5 percent of the total national party vote, which guarantees seats in Parliament under New Zealand's proportional representation voting system, MMP.

While deals with Act and United Future are certain, it is unclear whether Key will create a coat-tailing opportunity for Craig, whose Christian values party has consistently polled at around 3 percent, compared to 0 to 1 percent for Act and United Future, and could bring four MP's into Parliament on that level of support.

The spotlight is on politically convenient "coat-tailing" to allow often one seat minor parties to prop up governing parties after the former ACT party leader John Banks was found guilty last Friday of knowingly signing off as confidential donations to his 2010 Auckland mayoral campaign when he knew their origin, including two from Internet fugitive and entrepreneur Kim Dotcom.

Dotcom is also hoping to exploit the coat-tailing provisions through the merger of his Internet party with the hard left Mana party. Internet-Mana expects to gain several seats in the next Parliament on the strength of Mana Party leader Hone Harawira's grip on the Maori seat, Te Tai Tokerau and poll support touching above 2 percent at times.

Both ACT and United Future gained seats in the last Parliament because the National Party indicated to its own supporters that they should support the independent party candidate in the electorate vote, while giving their all-important second, or party, vote to National.

However, Key vowed after the 2011 poll to be more transparent about electoral accommodations after a publicity stunt, having a cup of tea with Banks to endorse his bid for the Auckland electorate of Epsom, went disastrously wrong, leading to the so-called "teapot tapes" saga.

Speculation on seats for Craig has centred on two North Auckland seats, East Coast Bays and Rodney.

The former is held by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, who has said he won't stand aside for Craig, although the Wellington rumour mill is buzzing with speculation about the lure of an ambassador's posting. In Rodney, Craig was trounced at the last election by the incumbent, the little-seen Mark Mitchell, who has also indicated an intention to stand.

In Ohariu, the electorate of United Future leader Peter Dunne, the National candidate Katrina Shanks stood aside for Dunne, and gained a high enough placing on the party list to ensure a return to Parliament.

What do you think? Is Act's David Seymour now a shoe-in for the Epsom seat?  Click here to vote in our subscriber-only business pulse poll.

(BusinessDesk)

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