'No such thing' as moral majority - politics professor

  • 25/09/2017

A politics professor says there's no such thing as a 'moral majority' in the New Zealand constitution as the wash up from Saturday's cliffhanger election continues.

National won 46 percent of the party vote, and has claimed it has a 'moral' right to govern despite losing its majority.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is expected to announce which party he will form a coalition government with in the coming weeks.

Professor Richard Shaw  Shaw told The AM Show that when it comes to forming a government coalition, all that matters is that a combination of parties can persuade the Governor General they can reach 61 seats.

"The word 'moral' doesn't appear in our constitution," said Prof Shaw.

New Zealand has a "freestyle bargaining approach" to forming coalitions, lacking the strict rules of other countries with similarly structured governments.

The largest party has always formed the government since the implementation of MMP in the 1996 election.

Mr Peters decided the Government in 1996, forming a coalition with National who were just five percent ahead of Labour.

There is a 10 percent gap between the two major parties this election.

Prof Shaw said Mr Peters made a mistake in choosing to go with National in 1996, leading to him later being sacked from Cabinet.

"I think Winston Peters' voters had given him what historically we look back at as a fairly clear message that they wanted a change of government. 

"He voted to continue that Bolger-led administration and it all ended fairly badly for him. I think that will probably be playing on his mind as well."

Prof Shaw said Mr Peters faces his toughest decision yet under MMP, and that it is "not a comfortable position for him".

"I think that he is caught between a bit of a rock and a bit of a hard place. I think it will depend significantly on what his base says. If his interpretation is that his voters ... gave him a mandate to change the government, then if there is a moral question it becomes framed in terms of what the voters want. 

"If, on the other hand, he thinks his voters are sending him a message that his job is to maintain a stable and continuous government, which was the National Party's line, then that's a different look."

When asked who he believes won the election, Prof Shaw had this to say:

"Nobody's won the election yet. The people who won the election are the people who form the government."