}

Thursday, October 12, 2017

We’re still waiting

New Zealand is still waiting. We have no government, and we have no Spring. Yet. I don’t think the two things are connected, but the world is so insane now, who can be sure? Of the two, the new government is mostly likely to arrive first—maybe.

Winston Peters, leader of the New Zealand First party, has been engaged in negotiations to form a government. He’s been alternating meetings with the National and Labour parties, and the Labour Party has also met with the Green Party. Winston has said that policy has been the main forcus of the negotiations, not ministerial portfolios. Presumably, the question of who gets what job will be settled last.

Despite knowing all that, we still have no idea what Winston will do. Opinions about whether he chooses to back a government led by Labour or National remain mere opinions. That hasn’t stopped pundits form punditafying, of course.

Once Winston makes his decision, it has to be ratified by the NZ First Board, but that can’t happen until at least Saturday due to several board members having to attend funerals. Similarly, the Greens have to have approval of 75% of a special council, though the newsmedia has reported that their meeting can be held by phone or online. Labour must be submit any coalition agreement to its governing body, called the NZ Council, for approval. The National Party also requires approval of a coalition agreement by its Board and Parliamentary Leader. Of these, apparently only approvak by NZ First will be needed to announce the new government, whatever it is.

The announcement of a new government, then, won’t come before Saturday, but it could even be as late as early next week. Some people seem bothered by this, but it’s really no big deal. The Netherlands recently went more than 200 days without a government as negotiations continued (there, as in New Zealand, a “caretaker government” looks after the shop until the new management can take over). To be brutally honest, it’s kind of peaceful without a full government: They can’t do anything to piss 0people off.

Whatever the shape of the new government, a majority of voters will have voted for it—which is kind of the whole point of a coalition. MMP, the electoral system used for New Zealand’s parliament, is designed to elect a parliament that reflects, as closely as possible, the will of the voters. Because of that, it’s improbable that one party will ever be able to win enough seats to govern alone, and that coalitions will almost always be required.

This is a good thing: It ensures that no one party can just run riot, doing whatever it wants, and it helps keep them from becoming too arrogant: A coalition partner can always pull out and bring down the government, so it makes good sense for the party leading government to work with coalition partners. On the other hand, this also allows parties to do things it would like to do, but that go too far for their own members, by letting a coalition partner push a policy. The National Party did this frequently over the past nine years, and the Labour Party did it a couple times in the previous nine years. This could be good or bad, depending on one’s view of the policy adopted this way.

Now, if we could just do something about finally getting Spring, that’d be great. I wouldn’t even mind if it arrived before the new government. Right now, more of us probably care about better weather than we do the new government. Maybe that’s as it should be?

Update - 9:50pm: From the New Zealand Herald: "Winston Peters' final promise: NZ will know who's in driver's seat before next week ends".

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