Peters won't decide on government until Oct. 7, rejects National's moral authority'
By Sophie Boot
Sept. 27 (BusinessDesk) - New Zealand First party leader Winston Peters said he will wait until the official vote count is completed to decide who to form a coalition government with, in a fiery media conference.
Preliminary results from Saturday's election show Peters in a powerful position as all parties fell short of the necessary 61 seats to secure a parliamentary majority. National won 58 seats while Labour has 45, the Green Party has seven, and New Zealand First has nine, according to the Electoral Commission.
That result, however, could shift as the Electoral Commission also said 384,072 special votes - 15 percent of the total cast - remain to be counted. Both National and the Labour-Green bloc must now negotiate with Peters to form a government.
Peters, who said he called the press conference in the Beehive's theatrette as the party's caucus rooms are being renovated, said he would not call any more press conferences before Oct. 7, when the official results of the election are declared, while the final results will be known on Oct. 12 when the writs are returned.
Peters also rejected the idea of a "moral majority" advocated by some commentators since the election, who have argued that he is obliged to form a coalition with National as the party gained more votes.
"Please don't write the kind of thing that says someone's got moral authority. For what? We're not in first past the post here, we're onto MMP, and I expect the media to catch up after 21 years."
The NZ First leader said the media should be ashamed of the "speculative drivel" published since the election, and it wouldn't affect the party's choices.
"We're going to make a decision in the national interest when we know what the people have said, in what numbers, and when we know with precision what we're dealing with," he said. "It's the economy we're talking about, and the social consequences of that economy, it's a huge responsibility. I can't tell you what we're going to do until we've seen all the facts."
Peters said he would put those caveats on any discussions he has with Labour leader Jacinda Ardern or National leader Bill English before Oct. 7. He said the party would seek feedback from its members over the next 24 hours, but not its major donors. He said it was "totally impertinent" to ask what the party's members had said to him since the election.
He said there were nine possible permutations of the coalition he could form, "and each one has to be seriously considered", although he wouldn't be more specific.