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New Zealand

Winston Peters Firmly In The Driver’s Seat


Just when it felt like this campaign was coming to an end there’s plenty of roads for it to wind down yet, writes political editor Jo Moir

The sudden and sad death of Act’s Port Waikato candidate, Neil Christensen, has prompted a by-election in the seat on November 25, and set off a long list of potential scenarios for the weeks and months ahead.

Let’s start with the general election on October 14.

Though an initial result will be known on Saturday night, the official count including special votes won’t be declared until November 3.

If National and Act can form a government with 61 seats, then it’s straightforward negotiations and a mini-Budget before Christmas.

If, as current polling suggests, NZ First is needed, then as has always been the case, leader Winston Peters would want to see the result of the special votes before finalising negotiations.

Where it gets complicated is if National and Act get to 60 seats but can’t form a government until they secure the safe blue seat of Port Waikato at the by-election.

In that scenario it could be 2024 before a government is decided. 

For Christopher Luxon to go to the Governor-General with a stable government, without waiting for the by-election results, other parties would need to agree they have a majority.

In that scenario Chris Hipkins could help National out, but he and other parties could also refuse to acknowledge the majority, as inevitable as it might be, and make Luxon wait until after the by-election.

If it got the green light, a National and Act government could deliver its mini-Budget to the House and start its first 100 days of promises, but it wouldn’t be able to vote on any of it, unless it knew it had the support of another party in Parliament.

The longest wait of all would come if NZ First was in play and held off final negotiations until the return of the writ for the by-election. The writ is a certificate of election that takes any judicial recount into consideration and the last day it can be returned is December 15.

Parliament must have met by no later than December 21 – six weeks after the final writ day for the general election, and six days after the final by-election writ return. But there doesn’t have to be a government for that to happen.

Parliament could meet before Christmas, with a caretaker government still in place, while negotiations between National, Act, and New Zealand First were still being sorted.

In that scenario it could be 2024 before a government is decided.

The latest charts and data
* Greens the winners in latest poll

A new poll on Wednesday puts New Zealand First very much in the driver’s seat with all the power.

It has National and Act with 54 seats – down five on the same poll last month – and very much needing Peters to get across the line.

New Zealand First has surged up by two points to 8.2 percent, giving it 11 seats in Parliament and putting it in a position to call the shots.

Hipkins had pointed to a newfound momentum in the past week and the Guardian Essential poll reflects that with Labour back on 30 percent and the centre-left bloc holding 55 seats (up two on last month) with the help of the Greens and Te Pāti Māori. 

The chances of Peters resorting to an extremely prolonged negotiation period into 2024 are slim, much like the chances of the centre-left bloc rallying and getting the numbers to form a government.

But it pays to never say never, especially three days out from an election.

https://www.newsroom.co.nz/winston-peters-firmly-in-the-drivers-seat Winston Peters Firmly In The Driver’s Seat

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