The only two parties to have won the Hamilton West seat for half a century are doubting their chances in the electorate's upcoming byelection.
Members of both Labour and National are being cautious when asked about their likelihood of success ahead of the byelection, despite being the two parties to have won the seat since 1969.
It comes as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the byelection would take place on Saturday, December 10 this year.
Dr Gaurav Sharma, who won Hamilton West for Labour in 2020, resigned from Parliament on Tuesday, triggering the byelection.
Sharma, who initially accused members of his own party of bullying back in August, was expelled from Labour's caucus and this week, was expelled from the party on the recommendation of Labour's governing body, the New Zealand Council.
Sharma had claimed he was informed by council members that the party would invoke waka-jumping legislation to kick him out of the party, but not until the general election was less than six months away to prevent a byelection from occurring.
Ardern and Labour's president Claire Szabó have both contested Sharma's claim, saying there had been no discussion of invoking the waka-jumping legislation.
Sharma said he would contest the byelection, and form a new "centrist" party to contest the general election.
National's Tim Macindoe held the seat from 2008 to 2020. He would not comment when asked by the Herald whether he would stand in the byelection.
National campaign chairman Chris Bishop today said he believed it would be a "tough battle" for the party to win back Hamilton West.
He felt it would be a "three-horse race" between Labour, National and Sharma, who Bishop said had a "very large majority" in the area.
"You never count the incumbent out of a race."
Despite being repeatedly asked about National's recent success in Hamilton West, Bishop continued to forecast a tight contest.
"It'll be a close race."
Yesterday, Ardern cited National's success in Hamilton West in her assessment of the challenge posed by the byelection.
"I'll let that record speak for itself as to the kind of contest it might be," she said.
"I think it's fair to say that Labour has at least in recent times, been an underdog in this seat."
She predicted it would be a "very robust" and "tough" byelection for Labour that hadn't been aided by the nature of Sharma's exit.
"We've had a Labour member who has not left on good terms and that does not reflect well for the local constituency."
National's candidate selection process hadn't yet started for Hamilton West, but would now be expedited.
In August, National's candidate vetting came under fire when MP Sam Uffindell won his own byelection in Tauranga earlier this year before it was revealed he had been asked to leave prestigious Auckland school King's College for physically assaulting a student.
It was later revealed National leader Christopher Luxon was not made aware of the matter, even though it was disclosed by Uffindell during the vetting process.
Bishop said the same mistakes would not be made.
"I'm confident we'll run a really good process this time around."
The Hamilton West electorate comprised the Hamilton city suburbs west of the Waikato River including Melville, Frankton, Nawton, Pukete, and Te Rapa. It also includes Woodridge and parts of Flagstaff, which are east of the Waikato River.
Only those enrolled in the Hamilton West electorate would be eligible to vote. As in any byelection, people would have one vote for their electorate MP.
Candidate nominations would close on Tuesday, November 8, and confirmation of candidates contesting the byelection would be announced the following day.
Overseas voting would commence on November 23 before advance voting opened on November 28.
On December 10, voting would be open from 9am to 7pm. Preliminary results would become available from 7pm, with official results declared on December 21.
Each byelection costs the taxpayer an estimated $1 million, the Electoral Commission has said previously.