Patrick Gower: Government negotiations are a complete circus

OPINION: It's official - the negotiations to form New Zealand's next Government have turned into a circus.

It has teetered on the brink of this for a while, but today it totally collapsed into a complete circus.

The truth is there is no way of knowing or being sure if the negotiations will end tomorrow or next week.

The story from New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is constantly changing.

It is not the amount of time taken that is the issue here. There have been five days of intense negotiations since the final vote results came in - that's fair.

But it is also fair to remember that Winston Peters set this deadline himself.

The real problem is the bizarre level of secrecy and shambolic nature of the talks.

The last talks are supposedly tonight - but that doesn't mean the end.

The latest reason for the delay is that Winston Peters wants to get sign off on any decision from the board of New Zealand First.

Initially, he didn't want anybody to know who the board are - despite them being constitutional appointments of a major political party.

Then the New Zealand First president said they couldn't be here tomorrow, or over the weekend, because they hadn't figured out whether they could get leave from their jobs or not. Given the deadline was today, you would have thought that was sorted out long ago.

Then Winston Peters said it was because some had funerals to go to.

As for what will happen next, there are always "maybes".

So now New Zealand waits for New Zealand First to organise a board meeting that is maybe tomorrow, maybe Saturday, maybe Monday.

It is not that hard to say: "This is the process, this is what's going to happen."

I think most Kiwis would agree there needs to be some confidentiality around the talks.

Yet this has gone over the top - each day is a bizarre ritual of deliberate nothingness.

There is a power vacuum - it should not be too hard to give Kiwis basic details of the process to fill it.

But sadly, there is a leadership vacuum too.

National leader Bill English, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, and Greens leader James Shaw have all given up trying to have any control of the process.

They have become political hostages to Winston Peters.

And Winston Peters is holding New Zealand voters hostage too.

It is Friday the 13th tomorrow - nobody would want to start a Government then.

But whoever Winston Peters chooses, there is certainly a feeling that it might be cursed.

Patrick Gower is Newshub's political editor.