Machinations and Maneuverings: Pre-election Utterances in the New Zealand MMP Elections
New Zealand has not yet experienced the type of pre-election coalition formations that have been practiced in some other parliamentary democracies. Yet, there have been occasions where individual parties have signalled their unambiguous preference for a coalition partner based on a desired electoral result. Some parties have also clearly stated that they will not form a coalition with a particular party or parties. It would be expected that pre-election signals could be safely relied upon to predict post-election arrangements. A selection of pre-election events, indicators, arrangements and manoeuvrings of the post-MMP elections have been chosen to demonstrate the impact each case study had upon government formations. The position taken by NZ First, in 1996, is contrasted with those taken by the Alliance and Labour parties. Important lessons were learnt, by both Labour and the Alliance, in time for the 1999 election and both parties engaged in a manner which saw them successfully form a new government. During the 2002 and 2005 elections, most parties communicated strong messages indicating their most and their least preferred post-election partners. This paper is part of a wider PhD study on NZ coalitions that is being undertaken by the author. The case studies illustrate the difficulties faced by all parties in maintaining their individual identity and, at the same time, conveying an impression of cooperation and stability. The events outlined in this paper demonstrate that some form of pre-election agreement or electoral coalition is increasingly been reached. The indications are that there is a high level MMP adaptation in the centre but the general voting public appears to have yet to learn to correctly identify the parties’ pre-election signals. It remains to be seen whether voters can correctly interpret whether parties pre-election stances transform into a post-election quick-step or perhaps a sly shuffle.