By Ian Powell
WELLINGTON — The newly formed Alliance of progressive third parties continues to perform extraordinarily well in opinion polls, suggesting that this new formation is likely to turn the country's two-party system into a three-party one.
A nationwide poll of 750 people conducted by Insight Research and published in the January 31 National Business Review revealed that 35% would vote Labour, 34% for the Alliance and 31% for the governing National Party.
This is the second National Business Review poll which has revealed unprecedented strong support for the Alliance. However, this support was indicated in previous polls when the more left-wing NewLabour and Greens had separately polled well with combined results of around 25-30%.
The coming together of NewLabour and the Greens along with the smaller rural based Democrats and Maori nationalist party Mana Motuhake is providing New Zealanders with an alternative to the discredited Labour and National parties.
With its anti-union Employment Contracts Act and its shoddy record on unemployment and imposition of unpopular hospital charges (i.e. taxing the sick) for certain patients, it is not surprising that National is polling so poorly. However, the success of the Alliance is also due to many people remembering Labour's appalling performance in government.
Attention is focussed on the Tamaki by-election on February 15. Tamaki has always been a traditional National stronghold. However, rather than Labour, the Alliance has emerged as the real alternative with a recent local poll reporting it to be only 5% behind National, leaving Labour a distant third. With 29% undecided, the chances of Alliance candidate Chris Leitch winning this seat have increased dramatically.