New Zealand was still waiting for a government to be formed weeks after the general election on September 23. The right-wing National party won 58 seats (with 46% of the vote), while left-wing Labour won 45 seats (36%). Any party or coalition partnership requires 61 seats to form a government, so there was no outright winner.
Under the country’s mixed member proportional (MMP) system, introduced in 1993, the result means either Labour or the National party can form a government together with a coalition partner, which is likely to be one or two of the smaller parties.
Of these, the populist New Zealand First party – led by political veteran Winston Peters – took nine seats (7.5% share), while the Green party, which has left-leaning and environmental policies, gained seven (5.9%).
The right-leaning ACT party, led by David Seymour, won only one seat. It is a previous coalition partner with National party, led by Sir John Key, and then Bill English. But the Maori party, another former National partner, gained no seats this time round (1.1%), while United Future’s leader Peter Dunn, who had helped prop up a National-led government, has retired and his seat was not held.
The Greens have ruled themselves out of a coalition with the National party, no matter how sensible it might appear, because it campaigned on a change of government. Hence, Mr Peters has now been dubbed ‘kingmaker’, since he gets to form the next government with either Labour or the Nationals.
A Labour-Green-NZ First coalition is possible, but it would depend on what Mr Peters gets out of the deal, such as the job of deputy prime minister. The other option is a National-NZ First coalition, which will mean that a National-led government will secure more seats than Labour.
But the government that is formed will depend on the special votes (such as overseas) that are counted on October 7. Negotiations are expected to be complex and have to be completed by October 12, when results are presented to the governor-general. It will be a tight deadline.