The footlights have again gone up on the minor parties as Kiwis think over their election options with early voting now under way.
Both the Greens and Act have advanced in the polls, each positioned to operate as jolts or checks on their bigger natural allies and competitors.
Monday's 1News/Colmar Brunton poll estimated Labour could get 59 seats in the House – one short of forming a Government by itself. That brings a "queen-maker" scenario into play once again, with support needed from the Greens, who were on 7 per cent.
Based on the same poll, National would gain 43 seats, with an Act Party allocation of 10, still well short of taking the reins without some miraculous showing from another minor party.
It is an interesting dynamic which we have become accustomed to under the Mixed Member Proportional system.
Voters seem to enjoy the stability of two main, centrist, parties dominating the political landscape, but they also want other voices at the table.
We are seeing a striking contrast in political systems as New Zealand and the United States both step through elections at the same time.
In America, presidential campaigns swallow mountains of money and require large organisations and leaders with name recognition.
There are some independent office-holders, but the two tribes of the Democrats and Republicans dominate. Yet the biggest groups of citizens to feature in election result charts are non-voters and the non-affiliated.
Outsiders wanting to achieve real power have to compromise with insiders. Independent senator Bernie Sanders, who has worked for years with Democrats in the Senate, had enough supporters to establish a new party but was always the head of a "movement" as he worked through the Democratic middle for his presidential bids.
In such a challenging system, a vote for a third-party presidential candidate is effectively a statement of protest or identity - one that can still inadvertently influence the overall result for the top two nominees in a close contest, as was the case in 2016.
Unlike New Zealand, where our politics is set up for organised coalition blocs of left and right, the two main US parties are a collection of loose, competing factions.
With the Democrats, a lot of the energy and ideas emerge from the progressive wing and are gradually absorbed into the mainstream, but the process creates tensions with the more cautious, pragmatic party centre.
The Republicans have gone through a fractious period, with some moderate party members leaving. During the Trump era there has been something of a merger of populist and fringe elements with economic and social conservatives.
Here, these types of political factions are given separate identities as parties, and acknowledged for their different interests and ideas.
Activists can find a niche and voters can see people who stand for their views and values.
That's essentially a safety valve for a society, at a time when many people around the world feel under-represented and powerless and not taken notice of.
Labour and National both aim to be responsible managers, and this year the pandemic has shown worldwide the worth of having competent leaders who can work through problems.
But the main parties have shown a tendency to reach for recycled solutions that have worked in the past rather than look towards the future with innovation. Smaller political partners are more prepared to try something different.
The Greens, for instance, have a transport policy which imagines fast intercity rail links. Act has argued for overhauls of district health boards and Pharmac.
The small parties' poll surge may not stretch as far as election day. But at least voters will know who is bringing what to the table.