The Horowhenua Mail - - FRONT PAGE -

This week’s coali­tion talks will ob­vi­ously de­cide the fu­ture of the coun­try, but they will also de­ter­mine the fate of Win­ston Peters’ New Zealand First party.

NZ First still com­mands con­sid­er­able sup­port – 187,000 votes in the fi­nal elec­tion count – but it is de­clin­ing over time.

NZ First also gets pun­ished by vot­ers af­ter it hitches up with a govern­ment. Af­ter both stints in govern­ment sup­port, NZ First’s base slid to fewer than 100,000 vot­ers. If his­tory re­peats, the party – which cur­rently has no elec­torate MPs – would be out at the next elec­tion.

While it may seem early to be talk­ing about the 2020 vote, NZ First’s che­quered his­tory and fu­ture prospects may well play a part in Peters’ de­ci­sion whether to sup­port Na­tional or Labour and the Greens into govern­ment for the next three years.

His en­durance as the se­rial king­maker (or queen­maker) in New Zealand pol­i­tics is tes­ta­ment to Peters’ po­lit­i­cal nous and party lead­er­ship skills.

But if he wants his party to have a real fu­ture, he will need to look for new ways to take it for­ward.

Peters, who is now 72 years old, en­tered Par­lia­ment as a Na­tional MP when Robert Mul­doon still had six years to serve as prime min­is­ter. He does not rep­re­sent the fu­ture of New Zealand pol­i­tics.

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