ANALYSIS: Presidential campaign helps win it for Gunner
TWO of the Territory's political parties ran presidential-style election campaigns banking on the popularity of their leader - one of them got it right.
In the spirit of never letting a good crisis go to waste, Territory Labor, which prior to the pandemic was heading towards an embarrassing election outcome, has surprisingly pulled ahead.
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Chief Minister Michael Gunner looks likely to lead a government with at least 14 out of the 25 seats in parliament and if the party pulls off political history in Blain, Labor will have 15 seats.
Somehow the conversation has shifted from a possible minority government to who will form Mr Gunner's new look frontbench.
Bereft of new policy and not much pre-pandemic record to go on, Labor has pulled up quite well.
Running a presidential-style campaign is incredibly risky.
It worked for Prime Minister Scott Morrison and failed for Territory Alliance.
The argument that Mr Gunner is unpopular has been dented, if not struck down, in the glow of this election.
The pandemic did his profile wonders with voters and this helped in urban seats.
Queensland University of Technology political expert Professor John Mickel believes there are other factors at play.
Most importantly, the election happened amid the pandemic.
In Darwin and surrounding suburbs, the unravelling health crisis in places like Victoria were in juxtaposition to the Territory's relative safety, pushing voters to stick with the status quo in NT Labor. In the regions this was less so.
The opposition parties, CLP and Territory Alliance, struggled to get a word in and the "untidiness" of preference flows made them risky as voters didn't know who was going where.
Prof Mickel said the CLP was coming off an "intolerably low base" against the backdrop of the 2016 election disaster, which worked against it.
But Opposition leader Lia Finocchiaro will be "formidable" and "quite a handful" in four years as the relatively new leader hones her skills and builds up the party's resources.
Originally published as ANALYSIS: Presidential campaign helps win it for Gunner