A coalition of a nationalist party with the Labour-Green alliance could be on the cards in New Zealand after the final vote count was issued. Both major parties would need to join with New Zealand First to govern.
The nationalist New Zealand First party is set to decide which parties will form a new government in Wellington after election officials on Saturday published the final vote count of the national election held on September 23.
Of the 120 seats in the New Zealand parliament, the incumbent conservative National Party won 56 seats, the center-left alliance of the Labour Party and the Green Party 54 seats, and New Zealand First nine seats.
The final vote count, which included 17 percent of votes from people who voted outside of their district or voted from abroad, left the Labour-Green alliance with two more seats at the expense of the National Party.
Wooing the kingmaker
Despite the win, both the National Party and the Labour-Green alliance still lack the 61 seats needed for a parliamentary majority. One of them will need to form a coalition with New Zealand First if they are to form a viable government.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said her alliance's two extra seats improved its position in negotiations with New Zealand First. "Today's final election count has strengthened the mandate for change," she said after the final tally was released.
Prime Minister Bill English, who has led New Zealand for nine years, denied the new result weakened his party's position in negotiations with New Zealand First's erratic leader, Winston Peters (top photo). "The fundamentals haven't altered, and that is that National has significantly more seats than Labour; we are larger than a Labour-Greens combination," he said.
Peters had said that he would not decide which party to back for a new coalition until the final vote count had been released. Peters, a former National MP, has formed governments both with the National and Labour parties in the past.
Joint approach to immigration, trade
The Labour-Green alliance's two-seat boost in the final count makes it easier for Peters to back them over the National Party. The combination would form a new government with a three-seat parliamentary majority.
During the election, aspects of New Zealand First's platform resonated with Labour Party policies, including a curb on immigration and renegotiating trade deals.
But New Zealand First's 72-year-old leader also opposes certain Labour Party tax plans, which could complicate negotiations with the Labour-Green alliance.
In total, the incumbent conservative National Party received 44.4 percent of the vote, the Labour-Green alliance a combined 43.2 percent, and the nationalist New Zealand First party 7.6 percent.
Prime Minister Bill English will stay in office until a new government has been formed.
amp/tj (AP, Reuters)