Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle’s re-election bid — widely regarded as a fait accompli — could still be derailed by an insurgent Greens’ machine that remains confident of victory if the party can snag over 20% of the primary vote.

As voting kicked off on Tuesday morning in the dual leadership and councillor ballots, an analysis of preferences for the nine lord mayor aspirants shows the Greens’ team — led by Alison Parkes and deputy David Collis — will benefit from a serious flow of votes from Gary Singer, Gary Morgan, David Nolte, Berhan Ahmed and Joe Toscano, while only ex-ALPer Brian Shanahan and Docklands tsar Keith Rankin have agreed to put Doyle, who is running as an independent, first.

This handy cut-out-and-keep summary shows Doyle has the second-worst preference flow behind Toscano, an anarchist. The Greens, by contrast, have the second-best flow.

But all might be lost if the Greens fall behind former deputy lord mayor Gary Singer and John So Junior’s centrist ticket. Singer apparatchiks are currently blanketing the CBD with flyers and expensive telephone box advertising and So is hoping to leverage his bumbling dad’s profile as a former lord mayor, even to the extent of playing up his dubious command of the English language. In 2008, Singer attracted 10% of the vote, but is looking for a 5-10% point Chinatown bounce this time around.

And there are a few other roadblocks — the Morgan-Elliott directive will be dimmed by the reluctance of many business supporters (many of whom get two votes) to follow his HTV — a phenomenon heightened in the case of a postal ballot when rates of compliance dip to well under 50%.

Doyle and deputy Susan Riley will almost certainly triumph if they can muster 35% or more of the primary with campaign assistance of Big Tobacco lobbyists the Civic Group and Shanahan’s preferences. But if the Greens — who snaffled 15% last time around in 2008 — can hold that down and elevate their own vote, Parkes could be well on the way to ripping off Doyle’s robes.

If the Greens are ahead of Singer/So at the penultimate count, they would be kicked across the line by Singer’s pile. That would also include — by that point — the crucial votes of Carlton pharmacist and Liberal Party member David Nolte. As for Singer, he’d be able to sop-up the leakage from Morgan as well as Nolte and, if he gets there, the Greens.

Doyle’s top-up from the “Forward Together” Docklands team of Rankin and Grace Han has raised eyebrows. Rankin operates Pleasure Boat Cruises at the windy CBD outpost and last week Doyle promised that he would institute a free Docklands ferry service.

Rankin told Crikey this morning he hadn’t consulted with Doyle over the latest plan but had in the past sent a plan to the Docklands Authority to provide a “similar service”. He said that while he did not currently own a suitable vessel, he would “have a look at the tender document” when it arrived. Rankin also said that as vice president of the Victorian Charter Vessels Owners Association he would like to “provide input” into the plan.

Crikey thought it thoroughly amusing that ex-councillor Peter Clarke was involved in the Morgan-Greens decision, as reported in the Sunday Herald Sun. Clarke, a Kennett-Baillieu machine man, was Morgan’s lead councillor on his 2008 and 2004 tickets and has been a Doyle enemy for years. He famously challenged Helen Kroger for the state party presidency in 2003 before butting up against Costello spear carrier Jason Aldworth for party vice president in 2005. It was Kroger, of course, who slapped down the Liberals’ state-level preference deal with the Greens in the lead up to the 2010 election.

Across on the expanded nine-councillor ballot (up from seven in 2008), former lord mayor Kevin Chamberlin has done a wily deal with Doyle to snag “Team Doyle’s” excess quota over 30% (a single quota is 10%) in exchange for the Shanahan-Chamberlin group’s preferences in the mayoral ballot (last week, Chamberlin hilariously said he couldn’t remember who his group had preferenced when quizzed on the matter).

Doyle is assured of snagging at least two councillors in Kevin Louey and former Greens donor Arron Wood (but not enough to secure a majority of six). The Greens will get current councillor Cathy Oke, and incumbent Ken Ong on Gary Singer’s ticket is also a shoo-in.

On the “highly likely” list is Gary Morgan’s Jackie Watts (who replaced Clarke on council in a controversial countback in 2011), ALP Carlton branch president Richard Foster, Chamberlin and third Doyle candidate Beverley Pinder-Mortimer.

The ninth spot will come down to second Greens candidate Rohan Leppert and Crikey founder Stephen Mayne. Mayne will either need to poll about a 4% primary and keep the Greens primary low enough to skip ahead on minor party preferences. Alternatively, in a more likely scenario, if Ong’s surplus tips Leppert’s Green ticket over 20%, then the Greens’ portion of the surplus over 20% will flow back to Mayne, tipping him over a quota at the expense of Chamberlin.

As in the mayoral poll, much will depend on the Singer-So-Ong primary. A bumper vote approaching 20% could even see a second councillor elected at the expense of Leppert. A lower vote would let Leppert back in.

Meanwhile, much has been made of Labor’s decision to formally vacate the field. But you don’t need to look far to see the local Right machine firing on all cylinders among the usual suspects.

One feeder ticket pricking antennae is the alarmingly titled “Residents First: Stop the Rates Rip-Off!” group. One of the candidates — although he doesn’t declare this — is Victorian Trades Hall Council assistant secretary David Cragg (AWU). In his bio, Cragg says he “works in Carlton” — that’d be Trades Hall — and has “been involved in Council political debates since 1990s [sic].”

The affinity of Stop the Rates Rip Off! group with local Right identities is striking. In 2004 it ran for both the leadership team and the councillor ticket. Names on that ticket included Cragg and former Stephen Conroy staffer Tim Watts. Follow the preference trail this time around and all warrens lead to the LU-aligned Foster’s very live bid for a councillor spot.

Completed ballot papers are due back with the returning officer by Friday October 26. But observers can expect plenty of shenanigans to transpire before then.