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New Zealand PM-elect Luxon, National leaders to start planning coalition

Published 10/14/2023, 11:55 PM
Updated 10/15/2023, 12:00 AM
© Reuters. Christopher Luxon, Leader of the National Party waves to supporters at his election party after winning the general election to become New Zealand’s next prime minister in Auckland, New Zealand, October 14, 2023. REUTERS/David Rowland

By Lucy Craymer and Renju Jose

WELLINGTON (Reuters) -Senior members of New Zealand's National Party will meet on Sunday to plan forming a coalition government after the centre-right party and its preferred partner won a razor-thin electoral victory that could be eroded when the final votes are tallied.

Prime Minister-elect Christopher Luxon, 53, a former airline executive who has only been in parliament for three years, said National’s strategy team would gather behind closed doors in the afternoon to map out how to approach negotiations.

"We are going to deliver a strong and stable government that is going to get things done,” Luxon told a press conference in Auckland a day after Saturday's election.

He said he had spoken with the leader of the conservative ACT New Zealand, David Seymour, twice on Saturday and believed the two parties would work constructively.

National won 50 seats and ACT 11, securing a majority of just one seat in the 121-seat parliament, according to provisional results from the Electoral Commission.

While the election produced a notable swing from left to right, Bryce Edwards, a research fellow at the school of government at Victoria University of Wellington, said he did not expect a radical right-wing government in any significant sense.

"It's just so opaque at the moment," Edwards said. National "will be coalescing with the ACT party and also with New Zealand First and we just don't know yet what dynamic that's going to bring."

While National and ACT have the numbers to form a government on the current count, roughly 567,0000 special votes, around 20% of the total, must still be counted. The official result is due on Nov. 3, and right-wing parties have historically lost at least a seat with the final count.

National's campaign manager Chris Bishop warned the party might lose at least one seat when the special votes are counted.

If National and ACT lose a seat, they would need to reach an agreement with the populist New Zealand First. Luxon has not yet spoken to leader Winston Peters but has said he is prepared to work with them to form a stable government.

Under New Zealand’s mixed-member proportional system, it is very uncommon for a single party to form a government, although Jacinda Ardern’s Labour government did in 2020.

Peters told a press conference he was waiting to speak with Luxon after the result was clear.

© Reuters. Christopher Luxon, Leader of the National Party waves to supporters at his election party after winning the general election to become New Zealand’s next prime minister in Auckland, New Zealand, October 14, 2023. REUTERS/David Rowland

National can create a government either in coalition with parties that join the government or by agreements with smaller parties to support the government on important matters such as budgets or no-confidence votes.

Anthony Albanese, centre-left prime minister of neighbouring Australia congratulated Luxon, posting on X, formerly known as Twitter, that he looked forward to building the two countries' relationship into the future.

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