'Preliminary Talks' with National Party on Govt Formation This Week, NZ First Says
By Pattrick Smellie
Oct. 2 (BusinessDesk) - The New Zealand First Party has broken its silence on the process for government formation, saying "preliminary talks" will proceed with the National Party "this week when arrangements suitable to both parties are concluded".
The media statement revealed that the party's leader, Winston Peters, had phoned Prime Minister Bill English this morning in response to a voice message left last night for Peters by English.
"New Zealand First expects the same will occur if and when other parties make contact," the statement said.
Peters confirmed also that "the staff of New Zealand First have been, and are, in contact with staff from other political parties".
The statement comes as pressure mounts on NZ First to demonstrate willingness to progress government formation discussions of a preliminary nature before this Saturday's release of the final election night vote count, which will include the impact of some 384,000 special votes cast either overseas, outside a voter's electorate, or by a voter who both registered to vote and voted on the same day in the fortnight of early voting before the Sept. 23 general election.
Peters has nominated Thursday next week, Oct. 12, as the date by which coalition negotiations would be completed, but had given no hint before now that discussions about the broad outline of possible government coalition or support agreements could occur prior to Oct. 7. He did say last week there were nine possible permutations for forming a government with either the National Party or the Labour and Green parties.
Between them, Labour and the Greens won 54 seats on the election night count, compared to 58 for National, leaving NZ First in a king-maker role with nine seats.
However, historically, special votes have tended to shift one or more seats to parties of the left, which could strengthen the options for a Labour-Greens-NZ First combination, which confer only 61 seats, or a slender two-seat parliamentary majority, on election night results.