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The wait goes ?on, but it seems ?the end game ?is at hand

Opinion Piece

As the talks on forming a new government continue, there are signs they are entering the final stage where the real deals will be made face to face.

The fact Winston Peters held one-on-one meetings with both Bill English and Jacinda Ardern last night is widely seen as a sign the end game is at hand.

It appears that the policy issues are now resolved, minus a few final confirmations and cast-iron guarantees, and on the table now are final deals that centre on two key areas.

One is the roles NZ First would have in a coalition government, including ministerial posts. The other is how 72-year-old Peters can secure the survival of his party after this three-year parliamentary term ends in 2020.

Peters will need to draw on all his experience and horse-trading skills to get the maximum possible for his party and its supporters.

Even though he is playing a strong hand in a high-stakes game, at the end of the day he has to come up with something that is acceptable to National or Labour.

In the meantime, we are left to speculate on which of the party’s core policies his team has managed to get accepted by National, and which by Labour. He campaigned strongly on immigration, regional development, rewriting the Reserve Bank Act and, to a lesser extent, a referendum on the Maori seats.

He has admitted that the negotiation process has been much more complex than he expected — as he has backtracked on self-imposed timelines — indicating perhaps that he had a preferred option, but the other major party has created a very appealing deal as well.

It now appears that the shape of the new government will be finally known by the end of this week.

Peters looked strained and drawn while making terse comments to TV news cameras last night. But the great survivor of New Zealand politics is still the centre of attention and, for now, is calling the shots.