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.