John Key is moving fast. After last night’s comprehensive election win the National Party leader says he wants to form his government within eight days and negotiations with ACT will start tomorrow.
National has 59 seats in the new Parliament and ACT five, giving Key a clear majority with 64 seats in the 122-member House.
He is going to include United Future leader Peter Dunne, which will be quickly formalised, and the Maori Party, although it will take longer to work out what role it will have.
Key is aiming for 70 votes on confidence and supply — the essential support a government needs to stay in power and command the confidence of Parliament.
That would put a National-led government in a very strong position against the combined forces of Labour, the Greens and Jim Anderton who have a total of 52 seats.
It would also set up National for the next election, with minor parties already committed to backing it.
Key promised last night to govern in the interests of all New Zealanders and he sees unity as essential during the difficult economic times that lie ahead.
ACT’s leader, Rodney Hide, said today his party was more interested in providing New Zealand with a secure and stable government than making policy demands during coalition talks.
The country needed certainty and a sense of direction and ACT was not going into the talks with any bottom lines, he said.
Hide easily retained his Epsom seat and brought in four other MPs with him, as the party did not have to reach the 5 percent threshold for seats.
It had two in the last Parliament and the newcomers include former Labour finance minister Sir Roger Douglas.
Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said he talked to Mr Key last night about working with National and the most important thing was to establish a good relationship.
Maori voters showed an overwhelming preference for Labour with their party votes, and Maori Party MPs now have to persuade them it was essential to work with National if any gains were to be made.
Sharples said ministerial positions were not as important as gaining “budgetary responsibility” in policy areas which affected Maori.
The Maori Party holds five of the seven Maori roll seats, one more than it did in the last Parliament.
Dunne, who committed himself to National before the election, also expected to talk to Mr Key tomorrow.
He was revenue minister under Labour and could keep that portfolio under National.
While Dunne has secured his future by retaining his Ohariu seat and going into government with National, his party did not do well in the election. It gained less than 1 percent of the vote and Mr Dunne is its only MP.
Labour, meanwhile, is getting ready to regroup under new leadership.
Prime Minister Helen Clark and her deputy, Michael Cullen, are both stepping down.
Senior cabinet minister Phil Goff is clear frontrunner to take over from Clark and Justice Minister Annette King looks the most likely candidate for deputy leader.
Labour’s caucus of 43 MPs will decide who gets the top jobs.