Prime Minister John Key gave his clearest hint yet that the general election is likely to be held before the G-20 global leaders’ meeting in Brisbane, in mid-November.
He told his weekly post-Cabinet press conference that it would be preferable not to leave the country to attend the high-powered meeting of the world’s most powerful 20 economies, which Australia has invited New Zealand to attend this year.
Describing the G-20 as a “complicating factor”, Mr Key dodged questions about exactly when the election could be, but was lukewarm on attending an international meeting during the course of an election campaign.
“You can do anything you want to do, but I just don’t think that’s likely,” he said. Asked whether that meant an election would be before the Nov. 15 meeting, Mr Key replied: “Or after.”
However, the situation is all the more complicated by the fact that Mr Key has invited several of the world leaders heading to Brisbane to make flying visits to New Zealand around the time of the G-20, including US President Barack Obama.
If they arrive before election day, their presence could be criticised as designed to influence the election, while also requiring much of the Prime Minister’s and other senior politicians’ campaigning time.
If held after the G-20 meeting, a four to six week election campaign would push polling day into Christmas or beyond.
Under the Electoral Act, the latest date for the election is around mid-January, but conventional wisdom dictates that is a terrible time to hold a general election.
Okay lets looks at what dates are probable and possible. First what is the last possible date.
Parliament expires on Wed 17 Dec 2014. Writs must be issued by Wed 24 Dec and returned within 50 days which is Thu 12 Feb 2015. You need two weeks or so to count special votes so the last possible date is Sat 24 Jan 2015.
However let us assume that an election after Christmas is undesirable, and that you also want final results before Christmas which means an election no later than Sat 6 December.
Now election campaigns tend to be from four to six weeks in length. That means the campaign would start 8 November at the latest. So it is hard to see the election being after the G20 meeting unless you have a three week campaign only (or have the PM overseas for some of the campaign).
So when could the election be if before the G20? You could have it on Sat 1 November but there may not be a clear election outcome by 15 November (especially if Peters is involved).
The Saturday before (25 October) is Labour weekend, and apart from not wanting to give Labour a campaign slogan (Vote Labour on Labour Weekend) having so many people on holiday would be a problem.
Sat 18 October is possible. The All Blacks do play the Wallabies that day but it is in Australia so not as major a factor as if it was in NZ.
So I’d say 11 or 18 October are pretty likely dates. Of course as a pollster I’d be happy with 24 Jan 2015