Waiting for Godot, political endurance gets testy

Venkat Raman

The current political impasse and the ‘Will he?’ or ‘Won’t he?’ questions dominating the two main political camps is somewhat akin to the two characters in Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot.’

Those of us who have watched the play would have wondered how, two persons – Vladimir and Estragon – from different, if not antithetical backgrounds, must wait for a third person called Godot. They do not know where and how long they should wait for the mystery man and worse, they do not know what he has in store for them.

Shift the scene from Post-War France (1948) to Post-Election New Zealand (2017), you will get the idea. Curiously, along with Vladimir and Estragon, there are Pozzo, Lucky and a Boy, waiting – you can draw your own similarities.

Disquieting quietude

If ‘Waiting for Godot’ was a theatrical impossibility, so is the ‘Waiting for Winston’ in our context, with National, Labour, Green and ACT in a state of limbo; nothing is happening but the audience is glued to the seat, waiting with bated breath.

The only difference is that with Samuel Beckett, the audience did not know what would be the outcome of the wait; New Zealanders know the name of the driver but do not know who the passengers would be- the imponderables are quite a few.

Some politicians, at least in private conversations, have begun to bemoan MMP saying that Mixed Member Proportion is the worst form of delivering democracy, for it can twist reality out of shape.

The German Parallel

There are some parallels between New Zealand and Germany, which went to pools on September 24, a day after we did, and emerged with frustrating results.

German Voters, who have 50 years of experience with MMP, pushed Chancellor Angela Merkel to run a fourth-term Government, which may prove to be a punishment. Her Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) emerged as the largest Party in Parliament but without a majority mandate. Ms Merkel would have the painful exercise of negotiating with other Parties for several months before she could run her Government. Unlike New Zealand, German politics has much at stake.

Special Votes matter

In the New Zealand context, Winston Peters has the right to take his time before throwing his trump card; after all, he should know the actual shape of the 52nd Parliament with 380,000 special votes yet to be counted before declaring the final position of political parties. Those votes account for 15% of the total eligible votes, capable of changing the political fortunes of Parties.

Our Leaders (Viewlink) in this issue analyse the political embryo. It is indeed peculiar that the people in effect, do not have a say in the formation of the next government.

Democracy can be indecisive when there is no clear winner.

Photo Caption:

The Man in the Middle has the key to the next Government: Winston Peters will decide between Bill English (left) and Jacinda Ardern (right) by next week. (Picture by Radio New Zealand)

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