Winston on coalitions

Winston Peters has said:

New Zealand First is not going with National.

New Zealand First is not going with Labour either. We are making that clear here today.

New Zealand First is not going with the Greens or the Maori Party. …

MMP is criticized by those who believe they have been born to rule but since this system was introduced, the party with the most votes has always formed the government.

We believe that the party that gets the most votes should try to form the next government.

But there’s one condition – the one safeguard that voters have – the one get out of jail card.

And that is do not let any political party in New Zealand govern alone under any circumstances. It is too dangerous!

Before we analyse what Winston actually means with this, it is first important to note one thing. Winston lies. Not just generally, but specifically on issues such as these. In 2005 he said NZ First would not take up the baubles of office. That was universally interpreted as meaning they would not take up a Ministerial role. Yet, as we all know Winston became Foreign Affairs and Racing Minister, allowing him to reward his secret backers.

Stuff have interpreted this as:

NZ First leader Winston Peters says the party will remain on the Opposition benches and refuse to support either of the two main parties if it is reelected to Parliament.

In a speech to be delivered to party faithful in Auckland today, Mr Peters all but killed any hope of Labour stitching up a minority government with his support if NZ First passed the 5 per cent threshold, saying he believed that the party that got the most votes should try to form the next government.

“New Zealand First is not going with National. New Zealand First is not going with Labour either. We are making that clear here today.

NZ First would not countenance a deal that involved the Greens or the Maori Party.

No Right Turn has blogged this this has killed off Labour’s dream:

Winston Peters has announced that he will not back either main party on confidence and supply, and will refuse to support any arrangement involving the Greens or Maori Party. So, that’s it then. Labour’s dream of cobbling together a coalition government if it does well enough (already a forlorn hope) is now dead. The issue now is not whether John Key or Phil Goff is Prime Minister, but whether Key gets to rule with an absolute majority.

But Winston has not in fact said definitely what he will do. At best he seems to be saying he will oppose both National and Labour. That could mean if NZ First did make 5% and hold the balance of power, he would force a new election by voting against supply and confidence.

A Government can only govern if it has supply and confidence. All Winston has said that the party with the most votes should try to form the next Government. Nowhere has he said he will allow them to.

Winston has left massive wriggle room, so he can do in 2011 what he did in 2005. The question that media should ask him is “Will he vote for confidence and supply for the largest party, against confidence and supply, or abstain?”. A related question is “What conditions will be attached to that”.

He has said NZ first is not going with the Greens or the Maori Party. That doesn’t answer the question of what if National needs (unlikely but possible) both NZ First and Maori Party to govern. Is he saying he will vote against if there are Maori Part Ministers but vote for if they are not Ministers?

Overall the only conclusion I can draw is that a Winston saying he will oppose whomever forms the Govt, and his apparent conditions on which other parties can be involved just makes new elections likely if they make 5%. Political instability is the last thing we need as Europe totters on the brink of economic disaster.

One interesting thing is that Winston and No Right Turn have both said National should not govern alone. NRT said:

This isn’t something we should allow to happen. As we saw back in the FPP-era, absolute majority government is constitutionally dangerous. It turns our country into an elected dictatorship, allowing a single party to run roughshod over everyone else and abuse the Parliamentary process to impose policies for which it has no mandate. MMP’s (thus far) enforcement of coalition and minority government prevents that from happening. It means the government has to negotiate for policies, convince other parties (and by extension the public) that its policies are acceptable. In other words, it keeps us safe. And that’s something we need to preserve.

Presumably this means Idiot/Savant is calling on voters to vote ACT. Because that is the best way to have a National-led minority Government. I/S has said that the Government will be National-led. That means that extra votes for Labour, Greens, NZ First or Mana will just be wasted as none of them would support a National-led Government.

A vote for the Maori Party will not work, as they are highly likely to have an overhang.

That leaves United Future and ACT. Now those parties need 1.2% to get an second MP and 0.45 to avoid overhang. United Future is looking like it will be an over-hang seat. So the best way for people to have a minority National-led Government is hence to give ACT the party vote.

Now personally I do not endorse ACT, as Idiot/Savant has done. If the voters vote to give John Key a majority, he has already said he will offer to share Government with the Maori Party, United Future and ACT – and at a minimum a policy co-operation agreement with the Greens.

UPDATE: Danyl at Dim-Post nails it:

Peters’ strategy is pretty simple. By ruling out the possibility of going into coalition with Labour, he attracts back right-wing voters who like his policies on immigration etc, but don’t want to cast a vote for his party if it means he’ll go into coalition with Labour. Then, after the election, Peters can go into coalition with Labour and throw a temper tantrum about media conspiracies every time someone suggests he promised not to go into coalition with Labour.

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