NZ First Leader Winston Peters apparently made a unilateral decision to assume he was in charge of negotiations to form a new Government.
Was he really in the pursuit of enhancing Parliamentary governance of the country or was he merely determined for reasons of self-interest, to advance the influence of a 7% party?
We all knew that the special vote count would be similar in percentage terms to the last election so where is the value in all the delay and attention seeking by Mr Peters? And how does it help our country’s governance if policies already voted on by the public are then negotiated away or watered down in the process of forming a Parliamentary majority?
Within the context of our election, it is worth considering the preamble to the constitution of the United States of America and that enduring phrase – “We the people”.
The preamble goes on to state - “We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for a common defence, promote general welfare and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our prosperity; do ordain this constitution”.
That statement surely resonates with all who choose to serve our country as law-makers in the New Zealand Parliament and require of them to obtain an electoral and a moral authority from “we the people” whether it is enshrined in a written constitution or not. New Zealand does not have a written constitution along with such countries as Britain and Israel.
The expression “moral authority” implies such traits as integrity, honesty, transparency along with a high degree of open democracy from all our representatives. Most voters would demand these qualities as mandatory, even if some politicians don’t. Greens leader James Shaw needs to fully explain the circumstances where benefit and electoral fraud are an acceptable practise.
Every three years “we the people” of New Zealand decide who shall be given the right to govern us all. That right or mandate is not given to any singular politician or political party who has crept over the threshold of the 5% MMP rule. Despite the options MMP has delivered us, the party with the strongest mandate should always form or at least attempt to form a Government by inviting other elected parties to join them. The alternative which we have all witnessed defies all logic and reason. It is simply not enough to offer the puerile excuse of - well that’s the way MMP works.
With 7.5% of the popular vote, Mr Peters has found his party to be in the happy position of being needed by both sides to ensure a parliamentary majority by either National or Labour. Surely that privilege requires an even higher standard of behaviour based entirely on an ethical approach to decision making.
Mr Peters acted out a real life and real - time fantasy where he and he alone decided the outcome of the election. That’s a bit like a player saying after the game - while I was only on the paddock for 7 minutes of the game and despite never actually having any impact on the final score, only the side I now personally choose can win as I write the rules. Mr Peters must realize that he is effectively suggesting that 93% of voters got it wrong – that he and his 7%, rightfully ordain him to fulfil his great cause; never mind the wisdom of crowds.
Abe Lincoln's 10-minute address at Gettysburg spoke of Government of the people – by the people – for the people. Winston Peters addresses that proposition by saying that 7-8% of the popular vote is enough to decide the outcome of an election. “I the person” decides -not 'we the people'.
Unlike malt whisky - a favourite tipple of many politicians - which matures and refines with age, it is not unreasonable to assume that Mr Peters has been left too long in the parliamentary barrel before a final bottling. The next three years will surely be his last in politics. His legacy deserves to be much better.