When he announced September 20th as the date for the next election, New Zealand’s prime minister, John Key, highlighted the difficulties of forming the next government. The country has a voting system of proportional representation much like Germany’s, and a party leader who may hold the balance of power has a record of prevarication. It could, said Mr Key, be a “very complex environment. And if New Zealand First holds the balance of power, goodness knows how long it will take him to decide what he’s going to do.” The “him” in question is Winston Peters of New Zealand First, who after an election in 1996 took eight weeks to decide between throwing in his lot with the centre-right National Party, Mr Key’s bunch, or with the Labour Party. In the end he chose National, but he has since served as a minister in both National-led and Labour-led governments. Mr Key has been pushing Mr Peters to declare beforehand which side he will back. A government supported by a minor party or parties looks likely this time, too.
Eight parties sit in New Zealand’s unicameral Parliament, three of them in league with the National Party, which in 2011 won 59 seats, two shy of a majority. Since 1996, when the country adopted mixed-member proportional representation, no party has governed alone.
Although voters appear to be tilting towards a third term for the National Party, its options for political partners are more limited than those of Labour Party, which could work with the Green Party, now hungry for power. By contrast, National’s current partners may fare badly in September. Party tacticians are therefore entertaining some strange permutations.
Full Article: New Zealand’s politics: Flag fall | The Economist.