New Zealand 'kingmaker' starts coalition talks with National, Labour

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 04, 2017 5:47 PM

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand's colorful populist election kingmaker, Winston Peters, will kick off coalition negotiations with both the governing National Party and the opposition Labour Party on Thursday.

Peters, leader of the nationalist New Zealand First party, said on Twitter that he would speak with the National Party in the morning and Labour in the afternoon, in the country's capital, Wellington.

"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," Peters told reporters in a video posted on Fairfax Media as he entered the country's Parliament on Thursday.

The maverick politician has said that he will not make any final decision on which party he will put in the coalition government until the final vote tally is released this Saturday.

While Prime Minister Bill English's National Party won a 10-point lead over the opposition Labour Party in the Sept. 23 election, neither won enough seats to govern alone and both have been left courting the outspoken Peters to form a government.

It is a familiar situation for Peters. The veteran politician is holding the balance of power for a third time, having previously joined coalitions led by both National and Labour.

He famously eschewed coalition talks in 1996, the day after a hotly-contested election in which his party held the balance of power. Instead Peters spent the day on his boat fishing and left the country without a confirmed government for almost two months.

A complete count of all results in the latest election is due on Oct. 7, when "special votes", which make up 15 percent of the total and include overseas ballots, are released.

Peters has said he will make a final decision by Oct. 12.

(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield, editing by G Crosse)