What a week last week was for Kiwis. There was no shortage of topics for discussion. Most relate to the elections but there were also others including the trouncing of the South African Springbok by the All Blacks the previous Saturday.
Regarding the elections, people were expecting it to be exciting but certainly not to the level it reached on Saturday night. It was nail-biting stuff. Not so much because of the candidates who won electorate seats but the percentage of votes captured by each party. It is the percentage of the votes cast in favour of a party that determines the number of seats they will have.
For the last month, the question in most people’s mind was, “Who will Winston Peters go into coalition with to form a government?” Although voting is now over, that question remains unanswered yet and will be for another couple of weeks. It was a tight race between National and the Labour-Green bloc where there was no clear winner. So it is now up to Winston Peters to decide.
With past elections, most experts and political commentators would have a fair idea of which party would form the next government come polling day. This one has been one hell of a cliff-hanger with opinion polls swinging wildly between National and Labour as the two went neck-and-neck right down to the wire.
By 11 pm on Saturday night, National supporters were in a buoyant mood as results showed they had captured 46% of the party votes which translate to 58 seats. But, of the parties that prop them up in Office, only ACT returned with 1 seat – not enough to carry them over the 61-seat majority required to govern. Both the Maori Party and United Future were wiped out. That means the only way they could become government again is for Winston Peters’ NZ First which won 9 seats, to agree to join them in a coalition giving them 67 seats altogether – a majority of 7.
The left-of-centre bloc of Labour (45 seats) and the Greens (7 seats) cannot be written off as yet. They could still form a government but will need NZ First’s 9 seats to take them to 61 seats, giving them a 1-seat majority.
However, there are over 380,000 special votes still to be counted. In the past these had tended to favour Labour and the Greens. There is therefore a chance of the left-of-centre bloc gaining 1-2 more seats while National loses the same number.
Yes, Winston Peters has again become the king-maker. And he will make sure that everyone knows that. During negotiations, he will play hardball by making sure whoever he goes into coalition with accedes to most of his demands. For those of us not in the know, Peters has been in this position before.
Following the 1996 elections when Jim Bolger was Leader of National and Helen Clark, Labour, negotiations went on for 9 weeks. But that is not going to happen this time. Peters is conscious of criticisms he copped during those negotiation about the length of time it was taking him to make up his mind and that he was holding the country to ransom. In fact, he has already assured the public that he would have a decision for them by October 12.
Meanwhile, the public is left in limbo as the guessing game continues.
One cannot help feeling however, that Peters has already made up his mind to go into coalition with Labour and the Green despite his distaste for the Greens. There are a number of reasons for this.
Peters is quite conservative and likes to be respected. No one knows this better than the former National Prime Minister Jim Bolger. Disappointingly for Bolger, during the elections campaign, National accorded Peters little respect.
Instead, they deliberately set out to destroy him. At the height of the campaign when Peters’ popularity was soaring, they illegally leaked confidential information to the media about his pension overpayment which amounted to tens of thousands of dollars and which he had already repaid.
What they might not have known is that Peters is like the old elephant. He never forgets the wrongs done to him or forgives those responsible for them. He commits them to memory and waits for the right time to get his own back.
That time is now. He has not forgotten that after Jenny Shipley rolled Jim Bolger as Prime Minister in 1998, she not only sacked him as Treasurer of the coalition government, National bribed his members who held ministerial portfolios to switch allegiance by leaving NZ First to stay on as independents so National could continue in power.
It would also not be lost on Peters that the election results clearly indicate that the public want change. They want to see more action taken to protect the environment, clean up waterways and make the rivers swimmable again.
They also want improvement to education and health services, elimination of poverty especially in areas like South Auckland, as well improved housing. More importantly, they immigration slashed and the sale of assets to foreign investors and speculators stopped.
They are policies that National will have problem agreeing to. So, even if they offer Peters the post of Deputy Prime Minister or Minister of Finance, I doubt he will go with them. The likely scenario therefore is he will go with Labour and the Greens, probably taking up the Foreign Affairs portfolio as he did under Helen Clark Labour Government; he did a very good job of it. His Party will also pick up another 2-3 ministerial portfolios.
When asked immediately the results were known about who he would form a government with Peters responded with a Cheshire-cat grin that he didn’t want to rush things and was going fishing for a few days. Whether it’s Labour or National that he will reel in is anyone’s guess.
All Blacks demolished South Africa
This was the other hot topic of discussion last week. The demolition of the South African Bok’s by the All Blacks. The All Blacks were just ruthless in their execution, displaying some sublime skills that saw them score 57 points to 0.
The ‘Bok tried their hardest creating numerous opportunities with their running lines, interplay and kicks into space, but were unable to finish off as the All Blacks defence was superb.
The All Blacks were also quick in identifying gaps and taking their opportunities throughout the game and had their win sealed by half-time.
At times, it looked like they were flying with their fast pace and trick-passes. They gave a near perfect performance. Trying to defend against a team with such superior skills is almost impossible. The mood the ABs were in that night, the Boks were very lucky to score 0.