The vagary of MMP is holding us hostage

Editorial One

Issue 379 October 15, 2017

Newspaper Leaders are usually last-minute exercises.

For, in the digital world, we do not have the luxury of breaking stories.

So we held our press along with our breath, with a blank Page 12 until the production team screamed at midnight, “We have to go now if our readers have to get this tomorrow!”

Journalists like us are used to waiting – at ministries and embassies as we did during the 1977 General Elections in India, the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, the Gulf Shield and Gulf Storm in 1990-1991 and for the past three weeks here in New Zealand, to know who would run the government for the next three years.

Hanging Parliament 

We could almost hear the racing pulse of Bill English and his National Party Parliament colleagues and supporters and that of Jacinda Ardern and her people in the Labour Camp – the former with just five seats shy of majority to rush back to the treasury benches and the latter with 15 seats short of majority to run the government after a depressing period of six years in the opposition.

If it were just a game of numbers, both leaders have had something valid to say. Mr English believes that his Party has the most number of seats (56) in Parliament and therefore has the right to form the next government and lead his Party into the fourth term. Ms Ardern on the other hand has said that more than half the country’s voting public have voted for a change and hence her Party should form the government with like-minded parties.

The man in the Middle

The man in the middle is Winston Peters, Leader of New Zealand First Party.

His Party holds nine seats in the next, 52nd Parliament. He himself lost his electoral seat but is in a position to dictate to both parties.

Following the announcement of final results on October 7, 2017 which really favoured none, Mr Peters has been in intense discussions with National and Labour, meeting each Party Leader and their negotiating officials at least twice daily.

At the end of those seven days, and the end of our deadline, no decision was available.

As he did in the past, Mr Peters remained tight-lipped, saying that following the end of policy discussions with both parties, the Board of Directors of New Zealand First would decide how to move next.

Mr Peters has feuded with bigwigs in National, such as Finance Minister Steven Joyce. He might expect to hold greater sway over Ms Ardern, who needs him more, than Mr English does. And his two previous tie-ups with incumbents were followed by heavy losses for New Zealand First, noted pollical analyst Matthew Hooton, so it may be “in his interest to side with someone new.”

We will write about the outcome online, almost as soon as we get to know.

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