Denied an overall majority when regaining power at the weekend’s general election, New Zealand’s conservative National Party leader John Key publicly launched coalition negotiations on Sunday, offering ministerial posts to two allies.
Mr. Key said John Banks, sole parliament member of the free market ACT party, and political chameleon Peter Dunne of United Future would get ministers’ jobs in exchange for promises to support him on critical votes of confidence and budget supply.
Mr. Key said they would meet for talks after the first cabinet meeting of his new government in Wellington on Monday.
National won 60 seats in the 121-member House of Representatives in Saturday’s poll and needs the votes of Dunne and Banks, a former National Party minister who defected to join the ACT.
Mr. Key said he was confident he could rely on both men. “It’s a small majority in the context of the Parliament, but a very rock solid majority,” he said.
ACT, which is well to the right of National, had five legislators supporting Mr. Key’s government in the last parliament, but Banks was its only winning candidate.
Dunne, a 27-year parliament veteran who been a minister in governments led by National and the Labour Party, was Minister of Revenue in Mr. Key’s last administration.
Mr. Key said he also wanted to negotiate a pact with the Maori Party that supported his previous government but lost one member to Labour Saturday to finish with three seats.
He promised “balanced, moderate” government serving the interests of all New Zealanders, a reference to the ethnic Maori minority which is over-represented in social indicators like infant mortality, poverty, unemployment, life expectancy and imprisonment.
Mr. Key vowed to sell nearly half of the four state-owned power companies and some of the government’s stake in Air New Zealand, reform the welfare system and rebuild the earthquake-devastated city of Christchurch.
He challenged Labour leader Phil Goff’s claim that the election result did not amount to a mandate to sell state assets, but will face a fight in parliament with the revitalised Greens and nationalist New Zealand First party also opposed to the plan.
Goff, who took over Labour after Helen Clark quit on losing to Mr. Key in 2008, after nine years in power, was expected to resign that post but said he would remain in parliament for another three years.
The leader of the ACT party, Don Brash, who led the Nationals before Key, also resigned, accepting responsibility for the loss of four seats.
Winners on the night who will play important roles in the new political environment were the Greens, who topped 10 per cent of the total vote for the first time, and the nationalist New Zealand First party, back in parliament after three years in the political wilderness.
The Greens, the only minor party who have never been in government despite a series of coalitions led by both National and Labour since 1996, have still to decide what form of cooperation, if any, they will offer Mr. Key.
Winston Peters, the colourful maverick leader of New Zealand First, has vowed to sit on the opposition benches and Mr. Key said he would not work with him anyway. Peters promised to be cooperative and constructive in opposition, but he is bound to be a vocal thorn in Mr. Key’s side throughout the next three years.