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Who will be the next Green co-leader?

Last year was one of great highs and lows for the Greens.

It ended better than any dared hope, the party finally part of a government with MPs appointed ministers for the first time in its history.

But before the glory, there was the nightmare.

Metiria Turei, one of the Greens’ rocks, was dislodged from her long-held position as co-leader after a disastrous admission of benefit fraud.

It sent the party into a downward spiral with deep divisions splitting the caucus.

With a constitution that mandates both a male and female co-leader and those rocky days in the past, it’s now time for an election to decide who will join Shaw at the head of the table.

That process, Shaw announced, will be fast-tracked with nominations to close on February 9 and a new co-leader unveiled two months later.

So who are the frontrunners, and what wildcards could be in the mix?

Marama Davidson

If you were forced to bet on one person, then it would likely be Davidson.

Most political insiders have her as the most likely choice to join Shaw as co-leader.

Green Party MP Marama Davidson (centre) could take up the mantle once held by Metiria Turei (left). Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Intelligent, feisty and not afraid to speak her mind, she would appeal to the activist left of the party who feel uneasy with the shift to the centre and alliance with New Zealand First.

She is also Maori, which would add diversity and a strong counterpoint to Shaw who would not look out of place at a National Party business function.

This would allow her to act as a counterweight to Shaw in criticising the Government when needed.

There have been suggestions that both Davidson and Jan Logie were the main contenders for the left of the party, but Logie was upset at missing out on a ministerial position and opted against running.

Julie-Anne Genter

The party’s long-time transport spokesperson is now an associate minister of the portfolio, alongside her role as Minister for Women.

Seen as a strong voice within the Greens, Genter may decide that her government responsibilities are enough to satisfy her for the time being.

Could Jule-Anne Genter join James Shaw as co-leader? Photo: Lynn Grieveson

If she does choose to stand she will be a strong candidate, although some may view her as too similar to Shaw.

A significant proportion of the party’s staff are believed to favour Genter, but there is less confidence of that support translating over to rank-and-file members.

Eugenie Sage

Perhaps the purest green choice for co-leader, Sage would be the first option for members for whom the environment is a top priority.

Now Conservation Minister, she has a long history of campaigning with Forest and Bird and being from the South Island would likely win her some mainland votes.

Eugenie Sage is another option to join James Shaw in leadership. Photo: Lynn Grieveson

Her demure nature would not make her a strong co-leader, however, and would leave Shaw as the main voice of the party, something that he may favour.

Wildcards

With any female member of the party eligible to put their name forward, there will likely be a few surprises.

One that some in the party fear is Deborah Morris-Travers.

The former New Zealand First MP acted as the Greens’ political director last year but resigned with just a week before the election.

It followed the shambles of Turei’s resignation and while Morris-Travers’ odds of winning would be long, a leadership tilt would be an unfortunate sideshow for the party.

Another outsider is Parliament’s youngest MP, Chloe Swarbrick.

The one-time Auckland mayoral candidate has ruled herself out of the running when quizzed previously, but she has ambition and could decide to throw her hat in the ring to build her brand, even though she would have little chance of success.

Another very unlikely possibility, one that is admittedly almost impossible to fathom, is the return of Metiria Turei.

The long-serving former co-leader left in a maelstrom of her own creation after deciding to reveal her historic benefit fraud in an attempt to boost the party’s vote.

It was a gamble that backfired and her resignation had the potential to dump the Greens out of Parliament completely.

Technically, there is nothing stopping Turei from standing again.

She would likely have significant support within the membership as well, with many feeling she was treated poorly by her party and the media.

Despite this, the chances of a triumphant Turei return are almost non-existent.

Any such decision on her part would turn the election process into a circus and lead to party fissures that have only just begun to heal splitting open.

Turei may return to the public eye in the future, but it won’t be this time.

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