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Labour leader Chris Hipkins says support for National in the polls for the Aotearoa New Zealand election next Saturday is “well and truly overstated”, predicting a much tighter race than some might expect.

Less than a week until voting is over, the most recent polls have the National-ACT bloc requiring New Zealand First to form a government.

But with the right’s polling numbers slipping, there is growing talk of a truly hung Parliament — with neither grouping able to form a government — or National and ACT failing to forge a deal with Winston Peters, forcing a second election.

With NZ First having ruled out Labour, and vice versa, Hipkins will be relying on Te Pāti Māori and the Greens to keep his job.

On Monday, he told media the election would be closer than polling suggests, saying Labour’s support ahead of the 2020 election was “understated”, and National’s was “well and truly overstated” — predicting a repeat this year.

He said Labour’s own internal polling was showing a narrowing in recent weeks between the centre-left and the centre-right.

“It is a very close race… I think the National Party threatening voters with a second election before this one is even over shows how unprepared and unready to be government they are.”

‘Sizeable bloc’ of voters
He believed a “sizeable bloc” of voters would likely make their minds up about who to vote for on election day.

Polls in the week before the 2020 election had Labour on 45.8 percent (Newshub-Reid Research) and 46 (1News-Colmar Brunton). Polls a few weeks earlier had Labour on 47 (1News-Colmar Brunton), 47.5 (Roy Morgan) and 50.1 (Newshub-Reid Research).

Labour leader Chris Hipkins speaking on Monday in the election campaign. Video: RNZ

Labour ended up on 50 percent, about 3 percent higher than the polling average. National averaged about 31 percent in those same polls, but only got 25.6 percent on election night.

If the same discrepancy between the polls and results happened this year, Labour could end up only a few percentage points behind National.

Hipkins said the right bloc’s campaign was in “meltdown”, “with David Seymour threatening to hold a potential National government to ransom on a daily basis now”.

Seymour, leader of ACT, has proposed sitting on the cross benches and only backing legislation on a bill-by-bill basis – effectively giving his party veto power over a minority Christopher Luxon-led National government’s agenda.

“If you don’t want to work properly together, that’s okay,” he told Politik. “You will still be Prime Minister, but we’ll work more distantly, and we’ll have to work through vote by vote to do it.”

‘Recipe for instability’
“That would be a recipe for instability and chaos,” Hipkins said. “The idea that you could have Christopher Luxon and Winston Peters trying to form a government with David Seymour on a daily basis threatening to veto any decisions that the government might take, show the kind of chaos you could expect under a National, ACT, New Zealand First government.”

He said he did not think New Zealanders deserved that.

“And I think the best way for them to avoid that is to give their party vote to Labour.”

He said without covid-19 “hanging over us”, Labour would like a “clear run . . . an opportunity to deliver on the things that we have put before the electorate”.

He ruled out a “grand coalition” of Labour and National, and said neither the Green Party, nor the Māori Party were threatening to force a second election if their coalition demands were not met.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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