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
Describing the G-20 as a "complicating factor", 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, Key replied: "Or after."
However, the situation is all the more complicated by the
fact that 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
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. Voters are likely
to be disengaged or antagonised by an election at that time
and too many voters would be out of their normal electorates
on holiday, which would require them to cast special votes,
and would likely affect voter turnout.
Key said he would announce the election sooner rather than
later, reasoning there was little political advantage in
announcing the date late.
"I don't know exactly when it will be," he said. "I know a
few dates that might work, but I don't have an exact date."
Responses from world leaders to the invitations to visit are
likely to be deciding factors. Even attending the G-20
immediately after a general election could be difficult.
If there was a "complicated" outcome, requiring
coalition-building and a two week minimum wait for the final
count of special votes, there might not be clarity as to who
should attend, Key or the only other serious contender,
Labour leader David Cunliffe.