The first major poll of the election year can be summed up in one word – Winston.
The 3 News-Reid Research poll has the New Zealand First leader in a familiar position as kingmaker.
And Prime Minister John Key is in an unfamiliar and deeply uncomfortable position; National for the first time is in real danger of being thrown out of office.
National drop to 44.5 percent, which is the lowest since Mr Key took power. Labour are up and so are the Greens, and together they have more votes than National.
But Winston Peters is up and over the 5 percent mark. He gets into Parliament on that, and it simply changes everything.
As for the minor parties, Colin Craig's Conservatives are on 2.1 percent. The Maori Party are hanging in there, and Hone Harawira's Mana Party is barely there.
But, and this is important, ACT Party is on zero, zilch – its lowest point. Peter Dunne is on zero too.
- National – 44.5 percent, down 1.9 percent
- Labour – 33.5 percent, up 1.3 percent
- Greens – 12.4 percent, up 2 percent
- NZ First – 5.7 percent, up 1.5 percent
- Conservative – 2.1 percent, down 0.7 percent
- Maori Party – 1 percent, down 0.2 percent
- Mana – 0.3 percent, down 1 percent
- ACT – 0 percent, down 0.8 percent
- United Furture – 0 percent, down 0.1 percent
So, translated to seats in Parliament, National, even with all its partners that we predict will win electorate seats, would have a total of 61 seats, which is not enough to get a majority.
The Left Bloc, Labour and the Greens, would have 58, which is also not enough. But with Mr Peters, National would take power.
But the same applies for the left if Mr Peters swings that way.
So Mr Peters decides. He once again holds the balance of power in New Zealand. So which side will he choose?
"Maybe even Winston Peters doesn't know that yet," says Mr Key. "But in the end understand this is a poll. Ultimately what happens on Election Day [matters, and there is] a lot of water to flow under that bridge yet."
"I'm sure none of us can speak for Winston Peters," says Labour Party leader David Cunliffe. "You're going to have to ask him, and I suggest you do it near the time, probably after the election."
"We don't pay attention to polls or what other political party leaders say by way of tactics or innuendo, so it doesn't say anything as far as we are concerned," says Mr Peters.
Mr Key ruled Mr Peters out at the past two elections, but not this time; it is far too close for comfort.
"We'll have to be out there earning those votes and trying to cobble together a coalition that will continue the good work of the last five years," says Mr Key.
"We never regard ourselves as the kingmaker, so it's an improper description," says Mr Peters.
Labour and the Greens could not be keener.
"We hope that he will be part of change for the better," says Mr Cunliffe.
"We'd work with New Zealand First where there is policy common ground, and that would be the starting point in any kind of negotiation," says Green Party co-leader Russel Norman.
"I know everybody wants to get the election over before it's even had when they are in politics, but the voters have the say and they'll decide who does what and when and who has the power," says Mr Peters.
As preferred Prime Minister, Mr Key was on 39 percent – down 1.9 percent. Mr Cunliffe was at 10.8 percent – no change.
"It's going to be a very tight election," says Mr Key.
"There's a lot of water to go under the bridge," says Mr Cunliffe.
But at the end of all that, it's Mr Peters who will say yes or no.
SEATS IN HOUSE - 124 - need 62 to govern
Conservative 3 (predicted to win an electorate seat)
Maori 2 (predicted to win 2 electorate seats)
Act 1 (predicted to win an electorate seat)
United Future 1 (predicted to win an electorate seat)
TOTAL RIGHT: 61
TOTAL LEFT: 58
NZ First: 7
Preferred Prime Minister
- John Key – 39 percent, down 1.9 percent
- David Cunliffe – 10.8 percent, no change
Margin of error 3.1 percent