The leaders of New Zealand’s two main parties will have to court NZ First’s Winston Peters to help form government after Saturday’s election failed to deliver a clear majority win.
The incumbent National party has 58 seats after Saturday’s general election but is short of the 61 needed for a majority in parliament. Labour has 45, the Greens seven and NZ First nine.
The numbers may change when special votes are counted, but NZ First is the kingmaker.
National Party leader Bill English expects a call from Mr Peters in the next few days when they’ll talk about the process of negotiating to form a government.
“We want to get on with the job of forming a government but we will work with New Zealand First essentially at the pace that they’re willing to go,” Mr English said on Sunday.
A National/NZ First government would have 67, while a Labour/Greens/NZ First coalition would have 61.
Mr English said senior National ministers met on Sunday morning “to discuss the results and our approach to the negotiations”.
He said a two-party coalition would be more stable.
“Our position is almost one-in-two New Zealanders supported National,” he said.
“The voters have given us the task of forming a government with NZ First and that is what we will proceed to do.”
The option of a National/Greens coalition has always been seen as unlikely, and on Sunday Mr English said National would need to see some indication of interest from the Greens in constructive discussion.
“There hasn’t been any indication so far,” he said.
Mr English confirmed National’s previous coalition partner, ACT, would not be part of a National government with NZ First.
Leader David Seymour understood how the numbers worked, he said.
Labour has not conceded and itself is looking to form a government.
On Sunday leader Jacinda Ardern said a majority of people had voted against the status quo.
“What New Zealanders want us to focus on is forming a credible, stable government.”
She’s including NZ First when she talks about a majority voting against the status quo, although Mr Peters didn’t give any indication before the election which party he would support after it.
He still hasn’t.
After a night to sleep on it, Mr Peters wasn’t giving anything away.
He said he would not be making a decision without consulting the party board and his MP colleagues.
Ms Ardern will be talking to the Greens, Labour’s natural partner, and Mr Peters to try to forge a three-way coalition.
Coalition negotiations with Mr Peters aren’t expected to be determined until at least October 7 when the final results, including special votes, are in.
Mr Peters has set October 12 as his deadline for a decision.