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October 2, 2017 | by  | in Politics | [ssba]

Political Round Up

Winston Peters

Attention is focussed on Winston Peters after NZ First gained 7.5% of the party vote, approximately nine seats, in the preliminary results of the general election on September 23. It secured Peters’ position as “Kingmaker” with considerable influence over whether the next government is fourth-term National, or made up of Labour and the Greens.

Peters has said that he will make his decision after the final results are made available on October 7, when the 384,072 special votes (as estimated by Electoral Commission — 15% of total votes) are counted. Until then, the final size of the parties in Parliament is unknown. Currently National has 58 seats, and the Labour/Green bloc has 52. Both need 61 to govern, so both would need the support of NZ First to form a government.

In a press conference on September 25, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said that NZ First had been “campaigning for change” and that the majority of New Zealanders had voted “against the status quo.” She said that there is “a lot of alignment” between Labour and NZ First.

However, Labour could find it difficult trying to gain NZ First’s support: while both parties support free university education and a ban on house purchases by foreign buyers, Peters is opposed to Labour’s water tax on farmers. Peters also wants a referendum on abolishing the Māori electorate seats. Labour won all seven Māori seats in the election and have “ruled out” such a referendum.

NZ First’s billboards asked New Zealanders if they had “Had Enough?” While some would take that to mean NZ First was sick of the current National government, Peters’ sentiment was more of a general backlash against the neoliberal status quo than a specific challenge to Bill English’s National Government.

Nevertheless, there are policies of the current government which Peters would want changed. For example, immigration is at record high and National has been unwilling to significantly lower it — which would likely be a condition for working with Peters.

Bill English has described National as having the “moral authority” to govern, given that they received the highest party vote in the election; Peters may not want to push his luck by supporting a Labour/Green government with a slim parliamentary majority. But NZ First having more MPs than the Greens means he may have greater influence in a centre-left coalition if he spurned National.


The Māori Party

Support for the Māori Party collapsed in the election on September 23, ending its 13-year representation in Parliament. The party formed when MP Tariana Turia split from the Labour Party in 2004 in protest against the then-Labour Government’s passing of the Foreshore and Seabed Act.

The party’s two incumbent MPs, Te Ururoa Flavell and Marama Fox, campaigned in the Waiariki and Ikaroa-Rāwhiti electorates respectively. Fox, despite giving strong performances in the televised minor parties debates, was unable to win Ikaroa-Rāwhiti. Labour’s Meka Whaitiri won the seat by a lead of over 3000 votes.

Te Ururoa Flavell had a tight campaign in Waiariki against Labour’s Tamati Coffey. Coffey won the seat with 9847 votes, compared to Flavell’s 8526. Holding on to the Waiariki electorate was crucial to maintaining the Māori Party’s representation in Parliament, having received only 1.1% of the party vote.

Party President Tukoroirangi Morgan had sensed that many Māori had grown wary of the party’s support for the National-led government since 2008. He said on August 4 that Māori “want our party to work with Labour if it’s in a position to form a government after September 23.” Flavell conceded that the current government “has forgotten about a fair chunk of society.”

The Māori Party’s support for the National-led government resulted in over $4 billion worth of funding for Māori programmes, including Whanau Ora. Furthermore, confidence and supply agreements between the parties have stipulated that National would not seek to abolish the Māori seats, despite being officially opposed to them; the Māori Party’s parliamentary absence means the position of the Māori seats may be more tenuous this term.

Though the Māori Party has lost its parliamentary representation for now, it is likely to redouble its efforts at the next election in 2020.


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