Last night, /u/Fresh3001 shocked New Zealand after resigning as Prime Minister and leader of the National Party. Despite clarifying he would remain as an MP and would contest the upcoming general election, this still came as a surprise.
Fresh3001 was in many ways, the lifeblood of the government. And despite his colleagues- namely, Kingethan15 and ToastinRussian, making some contributions, the majority of government bills were written by him. And National may face a slump now. Following the resignation of John Key as Prime Minister in 2016, he was replaced by Bill English, who was much less charismatic and popular than Key. However, he was up against a Labour that had basically nominated a dishrag for leader. The main opposition party, the Greens, certainly don’t have dishrags for leaders- they have former Prime Minister imnofox and prominent Māori activist AnswerMeNow1.
The Green opposition has managed to claim a few legislative achievements, namely blocking referenda on Māori wards and abolishing letting fees. But not many, and the Greens have capitalised on this to show the benefits of Green governance. Meanwhile, the government only narrowly won a seat that should have been safe in the Northland by-election, and lost the Waikato by-election to /u/KilroyNZ of the Greens. The government also doesn’t look set to hold their current numbers- polling shows the National-Reform coalition on a paltry 8 seats compared to their current 12 seats, while the Green, Labour and Socialist parties are on 9 seats. This leaves two centrist parties in the middle, one of which is brand-new.
Last night, prominent cabinet minister and touted by many as a National Party leadership contender, resigned from the party to form United Future. The name is familiar to those already well versed in New Zealand politics- a centre-right party that propped up the first ACT government, led by /u/TheOWOTriangle (who has now, after merging the party with Labour and immediately getting deposed, formed his own Conservative Party). But the new United Future claims to be something different- a centrist, agrarian party advocating for drug law reform- one much more similar to United Future under Peter Dunne.
This new United Future, combined with The Opportunities Party (TOP) led by /u/silicon_based_life, holds a balance of power, with United Future on 1 seat and TOP on 2. Both TOP and United Future are needed for a National government, while only TOP is needed for a Green government. But this may well only be the beginning of the troubles for the National Party.
There was never really anyone in the party who was a strong campaigner- only Ninjjadragon (who’s now left politics) was able to outcampaign Fresh3001. With Kingethan15, there seems like only one alternative- ToastinRussian, Fresh3001’s deputy and acting Prime Minister. He’s not good at campaigning and isn’t well known. If the National Party does not launch a strong challenge, they may well suffer not only a defeat at the hands of the Greens, but could pave the way for many more Green governments.