There has been some speculation recently that the Government could call an election before the Rugby World Cup in 2011. John Key has sad this is most unlikely. But the RWC does pose some challenges to the normal electoral cycle.
First of all the Rugby World Cup runs from 10 September 2011 to 22 October 2011. It is generally accepted you don’t want a campaign during that time, because to be blunt no one will want to hear from politicians.
In an ideal situation, you would have Parliament sit for say two weeks after the RWC, and then dissolve Parliament on say Thursday 3 November. The latest date Parliament can dissolve is Tuesday 22 November.
If you dissolve on Thursday 3 November, and have the GG issue writs the next day, and allow a week for nominations to close, then the election would be Saturday 3 December 2011.
However this may pose a challenge in itself. The writs for the election generally get returned two to three weeks after the election, to allow time for special votes and recounts. The writs may not be able to be returned until Mon 19 December, which gives stuff all time to have the House meet before Christmas.
Hence having a full six week gap between the end of the RWC and the election may not be possible. So a more likely scenario is that the House sits for only one week after the Rugby World Cup, and you have the election on Saturday 26 November 2011.
This will mean that the post RWC parliamentary session will effectively be little more than an adjournment debate, and that the RWC might almost become a phony election campaign, as people will know it is all on the moment it ends.
If 26 November is picked, here are my guesses for the key dates:
- RWC Final Sat 22 Oct
- Parliament adjournment debate Wed 26 Oct
- Dissolution of Parliament Thu 27 Oct
- Writ Day Fri 28 Oct
- Nominations Day Thu 3 Nov
- Election Day Sat 26 Nov
- Official Results Tue 6 Dec
- Deadline for Recounts Fri 9 Dec
- Return of Writs Tue 13 Dec
- MPs sworn in, elects Speaker Tue 20 Dec
- Parliament resumes, elects Deputy Speakers Wed 21 Dec
- Parliament adjourns Thu 22 Dec
As you can see, there isn’t a lot of wriggle room for the PM. He can’t go much earlier because of the RWC and can’t go much later due to the need for the House to meet before Christmas.
It would be possible of course to have Parliament meet in January, but you’d have some very grumpy MPs and press gallery journalists.
The latest you can dissolve Parliament is 22 November 2011. This means the election writs must be issued by 29 November 2011, and must be returned by 18 January 2012. Parliament must resume 42 days after that, which is Wed 29 February 2012. So in theory you could delay it until after Christmas, but it would mean a general election in the first week of January or last week of December, and that won’t be happening.