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Clive Palmer's chances of winning a WA Senate seat have been dealt a blow, with preference deals cut between political parties appearing to favour the status quo of three Liberals, two Labor and one Green.
But the Help End Marijuana Prohibition (HEMP) Party has emerged as a smoky to sneak in at the expense of the Greens' Scott Ludlam after drawing support across the ideological spectrum.
Amid claims of doublecrossing among minor parties, the Australian Electoral Commission yesterday released the group voting tickets that show how parties will distribute their preferences as they are eliminated from the count.
The various deals suggest the Liberal Party's prospects of holding its third seat have received a boost, while the likelihood Labor will win two seats has also improved.
Liberals fear their third candidate Linda Reynolds - who comfortably won a seat in last year's now quashed election - is vulnerable if the party suffers a big swing against it at the April 5 re-run poll.
But her chances have been enhanced with two minor right-wing parties putting the Liberals ahead of the Palmer United Party.
PUP, which polled 5 per cent in September, has picked up preferences from a swag of minor parties but these are relatively low- yielding, based on the results of last year's election.
Lead candidate Dio Wang will probably need to increase his primary vote to stay in the hunt.
Labor, which was reduced to one seat on the re-count last year, has struck deals with several Left-leaning minor parties to get their preferences ahead of the Greens and shore up its second candidate, Senator Louise Pratt.
The Greens will be preferenced by WikiLeaks, the Pirate Party, the Secular Party and the Socialist Alliance ahead of Labor.
The Australian Sports Party's Wayne Dropulich, who polled 0.23 per cent of the vote but pulled off a shock win after harvesting preferences from a raft of micro-parties last year, admitted he would struggle to repeat his effort.
"I haven't done as well as I did last time," he said.
However, several political insiders identified the HEMP Party as potentially one beneficiary of the wheeling and dealing.
HEMP, which got 1.07 per cent last year, has been preferenced quite highly by some Left and Right parties. But HEMP's veteran preference negotiator Graham Askey said it would be a miracle for the party to win after three parties "ratted" on deals.