Well we can’t say we did not see it coming.
Yes folks, here we are, again, for the third time in recent memory as we get to play another exciting game of “What does Winston want, and is it worth it to give it to him?”
But first the numbers.
National got the bulk of those who actually bothered to vote (more on that in a moment) while Labour pulled back those previously wayward voters (you know the ones that had voted Green the past few elections) while the Greens only just escaped electoral annihilation and NZ First (despite its reduced vote numbers) ended up where we expected them to be; sitting in position of deciding where NZ will go for the next three years.
The Maori Party and Mana were obliterated at the ballot box by voters who had tired of their piss-poor antics while Gareth Morgan acted like a spoilt child/very rich man when voters did not flock to his banner of rational populism.
Finally the voters of Epsom confirmed their kinky fetish for David Seymour and ACT by returning him to parliament but probably in opposition.
And it seems that after such a democratic process as this election was (because we don’t have easily manipulated electronic voting machines or people dropping off pre-stuffed ballot boxes at polling places) that now having to wait while a single individual decides the outcome for us is extremely undemocratic.
One question on people minds is "what will his price be and will it be worth it because the last two governments which did a deal with the devil got exactly what they bargained for in the end?"
With that in mind I am torn between wanting Winston to back National right into the god awful outcome they are going to get as a fourth term government, struggling with a mess of problems of their own making and wanting Winnie to throw in his lot with Labour, usher some change to NZ before the inevitable substance hits the fan.
In the end the real losers will be both parties because if you’re dependent on a highly capricious third party, with the moral scruples of a predatory fish, to get you into government then you will get burnt no matter what the outcome is. The only winner in this scenario is Winston (and I mean just Winston: not NZ First or any of those who voted for him).
Of course no power seeking politician in their greed addled mind will give up a shot at the throne so instead of expecting Bill English or Jacinda Ardern to say no to the poisoned chalice we will more likely get to watch them twist, turn and dance like puppets to the dictates of Winston before one of them blinks and the other gets the crown.
All of this is standard stuff for NZ politics and nothing we have not seen before but what is interesting is that voter turnout only just cracked 78% (up slightly from previous elections) which leaves over 20% of the voting populace too apathetic to vote and has killed dead any idea that there was a generational shift about to take place in NZ politics with some sort of “youth quake” reshaping the political landscape.
So it seems that Mike Hosking was right all along and for the next few days (or possibly weeks) we get to cool our heels while Winston Peters cuts a deal with either Bill or Jacinda over the future of NZ.
Speculation at this point is invited and the media has already started trying to figure out the puzzle but as I have said before even on the best of days it could still come down to how tight Winston’s pants are or what colour a reporter’s shirt is so there is only so much room for figuring the angles.
Best case scenario has nothing to do with what party he supports but rather how well the damage can be mitigated by which ever party comes after. The next best outcome is he supports Labour because “change” (and because watching Bill English implode as his dreams of PM are cruelly snatched way remain an entertaining prospect) while the least preferred option is another three years of National doing little because Winston has them by the short and curly’s.
But despite all such manoeuvring only one true question remains.
Is the fact that one fifth of the population not bothering to vote, and by extension handing over the whole outcome to one individual to decide “democracy in action” or something else? Is that populism kiwi-style?
I really don't know.