A National line that is doing the rounds goes that if National wins more votes than Labour but can’t govern alone it would be undemocratic for a Labour-led coalition to form the next government. After all, in this scenario, National has won more votes than anyone else, so it should be the government, right?
Wrong. That’s First Past the Post thinking based on the false premise that Governments are still comprised of a single party. We live in an age of coalitions and alliances; it is the alliance of parties with the most support, even if it does not include the single most popular party ,that should govern. That is democratic, that is just. Should a National Party that wins 45% of the vote get to rule instead of a Labour, Green, Progressive alliance of 52% just because National gets more votes than Labour? Of course not. The LGP coalition, in this scenario, represents more New Zealanders, and that is the crucial test of the legitimacy of a government. Where is the democracy in allowing a minority party to rule instead of a majority coalition? Why should minority parties feel obliged to acquiesce to a National Government if they can form a government that better represents their voters?
We didn’t hear claims that Labour should automatically form the core of the Government in 2005 just because it had won the most votes. No, we had several weeks of negotiations to decide the incoming government would be Labour or National-led. If a larger governing arrangement around National could have been formed (which it couldn’t because of National’s dearth of allies), that government would have been legitimate.
Parties should not feel some bizarre compulsion to allow the largest party to govern just because it is the largest. Whatever is the alliance of parties that most voters voted for should form the government, with or without the largest party.