Left-of-centre coalition wins in New Zealand
By Murray Addison
AUCKLAND — The elections on November 27 resulted in a swing to the left, giving a left-of-centre coalition of the Labour Party and the Alliance sufficient seats in parliament to govern.
The conservative parties (the National Party and ACT) attracted only 38% of the popular vote, Labour and the Alliance garnering 46%. The remaining votes went to parties, such as the Greens and New Zealand First, which did not attract the 5% or more of the party vote to get members into parliament.
The exact make-up will not be known until after the special votes have been counted. Both the Greens leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons, and the New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, are fighting to win the electorate seats which they contested. The result in both seats will be known on December 7.
If either or both the Greens and New Zealand First gain an electorate seat or get over 5% (the Greens currently have 4.86%) then that party or parties will be entitled to five or six MPs, in proportion to their list vote.
Meanwhile Labour and the Alliance have been holding coalition talks on the legislation which the coalition government will introduce and the make-up of the cabinet, as well as a set of cabinet rules whereby the parties can disagree over policy without bringing down the incoming government. The aim is to allow both parties to maintain their individual identities and policy goals.
The coalition talks are expected to be completed by the end of this week (December 3), and the Alliance is holding a special conference on December 5 to vote on the coalition agreement. The Labour Party caucus will ratify the agreement rather than taking it to its members.
It is expected that the Labour-Alliance coalition will take control on December 10.
Parliament will be called together in the week leading up to Christmas to enact legislation to increase pensions, remove interest on student loans (while students are studying), increase the top level of tax and require parliamentarians to resign from parliament if they leave the party they were elected from.
Very early on, legislation will also be introduced to cap state housing tenants' rents to no more than 25% of their income and to replace the anti-union Employment Contracts Act.