It's been two weeks since the election. Still New Zealand bobs along in a leadershipless sea. With neither major party winning enough seats to form a government alone or with their most natural coalition partners, both have spent the past week wooing the attention of New Zealand First's inscrutable patriarch, Winston Peters. Yesterday, Peters announced that the results of negotiations would not be released tomorrow, as previously expected, but Friday at the earliest. In the meantime, he's been tight-lipped about who the next government might be or what issues he's even negotiating over. Asked what policy points he might be addressing in the negotiations, Winston launched instead into a tirade about "repulsive", "lazy", "awful", "error-littered" journalism.
The total vacuum of solid information about what's going on in the negotiations has done little to stop the speculation. To keep you informed, we've gathered various theories on what will happen as coalition negotiations conclude this week.
Winston will rule New Zealand
Winston will be PM! Or so claimed Act MP David Seymour in a very long and mind-boggling press release. (Labour and National both ruled out giving Peters prime minister or finance minister during the campaign).
Seymour told Stuff he would neither "confirm nor deny" whether he had any sources within Labour or National to back up the unlikely claim the major parties would be open to making Peters prime minister.
"I'd never reveal any sources anyway," he says.
Winston will not rule New Zealand
In a slightly more considered take, gallery journalist Henry Cooke describes a ruling Winston as "a technically possible scenario that has been bouncing around for months, but the chances of it happening are only slightly higher than zero". As well as both major parties ruling it out, a Winston Prime Ministership would be vulnerable to collapse if the larger party removed its support, and his majority, in the house. Perhaps no King Winnie after all.
The Greens will get into bed with National
It started on election night, with doomed TOP leader Gareth Morgan urging the Greens to stick to their environmental roots, loosen their grip on progressive social policy, and join National to form a blue-green coalition in the style of Finland or Canada. Speculation about a possible "Teal Deal" grew from there, and Greens leader James Shaw fueled the fire by not absolutely ruling it out in one conversation: "If Bill wants to call, I'm happy to take the call, if he wants to have a conversation," he told media.
The Greens will absolutely not go with National
Reporter Jack Tame has in fact asked Shaw point blank: "Would you consider a coalition with National?" Without hesitating, Shaw replies: "No."
A look at the Google results page [the only way to find out truth] will find no actual reporting to indicate the Teal Deal might be happening, but plenty of results on why it's absurd and we should all stop discussing it. "Talk of a teal deal is speculation, nothing more," headlines Stuff. "All this 'teal deal' talk is empty posturing," posits Newsroom. "On why there will be no teal deal," NBR's Rob Hosking expounds. Media has been "turning up the noise on an unlikely 'teal deal'," says RNZ. If only there were some way to stop talking about it.
The Greens have ordered pizza and maybe it means something
News from Parliament today: the Greens have ordered nine pizzas. NINE! What can this mean? Are they celebrating a victory for the Labour-Greens block? Are they commiserating over failed negotiations? Are they subtly aligning with pizza-loving Prime Minister, Bill English? Is it possible they're just hungry? If it's the latter, nine does seem like a lot—that's 1.8 pizzas per Green MP.
Winston at the cross-benches
It's possible Winston could choose not to go with either party, instead opting to sit at the cross benches and go for a "confidence and supply" arrangement. That generally means the smaller party agreeing to back the Government on key legislation, like the Budget. In exchange, the larger party agrees to back their support party on specific policies. Outside that, each goes as they please. It could be appealing to Winston—he's spent most of the last term slamming the government, and campaigned on "Had Enough?" which makes backing four years of the same thing a little awkward. But it means losing out on the ministerial positions that a coalition would bring.
Winston retires, Shane Jones takes leadership, everyone feasts on crayfish
Winston has never given a hint that he plans to retire, but he is, after all, 72 years old - seven years past New Zealand's retirement age. So let's say hypothetically he wants to put his feet up and start spending his days "out on my fishing boat listening to Parliament about half past three in the afternoon, listening to my colleagues being gloriously successful in the future of New Zealand politics," as he told a group of students at Victoria. That could leave New Zealand First's Shane Jones in charge, who conducted his last stand up holding two bins of crayfish. A new returnee to politics, Jones is a huge fan of the crustaceans. He recommended dropping a nuke on criminal gangs, who he said were plundering Whangarei's crays. He served the giant orange crawlers at his Waitangi party. His commentary on coalition negotiations involved likening Bill and Jacinda to male and female crayfish Winston can take his pick from. Perhaps Jones will usher in a new era of kai moana for all. Welcome, to our new oceanic overlords.