Wellington: New Zealand’s National Party leader says he is prepared to work with the populist New Zealand First if needed to form a majority after the election.
New Zealand is due to elect a new government on October 14. The centre-right National Party is currently leading the polls but is unlikely to be able to govern without the support of at least one smaller party. Historically, it has joined forces with the right-wing ACT party.
Leader Christopher Luxon said in a video posted on social media that his preference was to form a strong and stable two-party coalition government between National and ACT.
However, he added he would be prepared to form a coalition with New Zealand First if that would get his party into power. He even left open the prospect of a sensational return for First leader Winston Peters as deputy prime minister in declaring himself open to a deal with the wily 78-year-old.
Coalitions are the norm under the country’s electoral system and only once since that system was introduced in 1996 has a party been able to govern alone.
Peters is a one-time National Party member and his party has previously been a coalition partner in both Labour and National-led governments. He served as deputy prime minister and foreign minister in Jacinda Ardern’s Labour government.
Last week, TVNZ released its latest political poll conducted by Verian, with National on 37 per cent and Labour on just 27. Labour’s result is its lowest in six years and would see it slip into opposition.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins put a brave face on the outcome, pointing to the fact National had slid two points from last week.