NZ parties start talks on forming coalition govt a month after polls

Mr Winston Peters is leader of the First Party, which now holds the balance of power after the Sept 23 election.
Mr Winston Peters is leader of the First Party, which now holds the balance of power after the Sept 23 election.

WELLINGTON • New Zealand First Party leader Winston Peters began talks yesterday with the governing National Party and opposition Labour Party, aimed at forming a coalition government after last month's inconclusive election.

Mr Peters, whose nationalist party holds the balance of power, has said no decision will be made until after a final vote count is released tomorrow.

"It's like being between the devil and the deep blue sea here," Mr Peters told reporters at Parliament, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Mr Peters held talks with Prime Minister Bill English and members of his centre-right National Party in the morning, and had an afternoon meeting with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, who told local media that the conversation was "a great start".

Mr Peters said in a video posted on Fairfax Media: "It's setting the agenda, the ground rules, the protocols, how we're going to go about it. Let's have an agreement about precisely how we're going to do this."

Mr English's party won a 10-point lead over the centre-left Labour Party in the Sept 23 election, but neither won enough seats to govern alone.

This is the third time Mr Peters, 72, has held the balance of power after an election and he has previously formed coalitions with both National and Labour.

A complete count is due tomorrow when "special votes", which make up 15 per cent of the total and include overseas ballots, are released.

The final count is not expected to change the outcome.

Mr Peters has said he will make a final decision by next Thursday.

Observers said Mr Peters' focus in talks will likely be on domestic policies, especially regional development to shore up his voter base, despite his rhetoric about limiting Asian investment and slashing immigration.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2017, with the headline 'NZ parties start talks on forming coalition govt a month after polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe