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article imageNew Zealand's election kingmaker says he can't win

By AFP     Oct 5, 2017 in Politics

New Zealand's maverick "kingmaker" Winston Peters expressed frustration at public criticism Thursday after opening talks with rival party leaders on breaking the country's general election deadlock.

Peters is expected next week to anoint the winner of the September 23 poll after conservative Prime Minister Bill English and opposition leader Jacinda Ardern both failed to secure an outright majority.

Both need support from Peters' New Zealand First (NZF) to get over the line under New Zealand's complicated mixed member proportional (MMP) voting system.

However, critics have lamented the system for allowing a party that only attracted 7.5 percent of the vote to decide the South Pacific nation's political future.

"The whole thing has been depicted as one man holding the country to ransom," Peters told reporters, defending his democratic credentials.

The 72-year-old added: "We just can't win. You can't win with the public, you can't win with the media, you can't win with the commentariat."

Peters on Thursday held his first face-to-face talks with English and Ardern since the election.

He made clear that the meetings at parliament were only preliminary and he would not make a decision before next week.

"(It's) setting the agenda, the ground rules, the protocols, how we're going to go about it," he said.

New Zealand "kingmaker" Winston Peters (R) holds the key to deciding whether Bill English ...
New Zealand "kingmaker" Winston Peters (R) holds the key to deciding whether Bill English (L) or Jacinda Ardern (C) gets to form a government

Peters has previously said he will reveal his choice by October 12, when the results of the election are officially declared.

That allows him to take into account the results from "special" votes -- postal and overseas ballots -- which will be announced on Saturday.

The populist leader of NZF said there were about 380,000 special votes, accounting for about 15 percent of the entire electorate.

"That's huge and to have them ignored as if they don't matter (would be) quite regrettable," he said.

The specials are expected to give Labour and the Greens another one or two seats, providing a Labour-Green-NZF coalition an extra buffer if it formed government.

As it stands, Labour has 45 seats and the Greens seven, which combined with NZF's nine would give a centre-left coalition a total of 61, the minimum needed in the 120-seat parliament.

English's National has 58 seats and would have a comfortable majority with Peters' support.

Peters, best known as an anti-immigration campaigner, has shown in the past he could go either way if the right offer is made.

He supported National in 1996 in return for being made deputy prime minister and Labour in 2005 when it agreed to make him foreign minister.

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