New Zealand opposition says 'kingmaker' won't be PM

WELLINGTON: New Zealand opposition leader Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday ruled out giving Winston Peters a stint as prime minister if she forms a government with the populist "kingmaker".

Ardern and her conservative rival Prime Minister Bill English are both in coalition talks with Peters, who holds the balance of power after the country's Sept 23 election ended in a deadlock.

There has been speculation Peters could demand a year in the prime minister's role as the price of his support, with some seeing it as the 72-year-old's last chance for a shot at the top job.

ACT MP David Seymour, a long-time critic of Peters, said this week that the New Zealand First leader "(wants) to be immortalised, and that requires being PM".

Ardern, who revived the fortunes of the centre-left Labour Party during the campaign, described the suggestion as "ludicrous" and said it would not happen on her watch.

The 37-year-old said her discussions with Peters had been focused on policy issues and the possibility of forming a stable coalition government, not sharing the prime ministership.

"I've said all along that it's not something that's on offer, so why would someone seek it," she told TVNZ.

"It's been policy focused, that's what we've been talking about. Labour will not walk out of a negotiation with that being a role that is being transferred."

During the campaign, English also ruled out sharing the prime minister's job with Peters, who is due to reveal his preferred coalition partner on Thursday.

It is the third time Peters, best known as an anti-immigration campaigner, has found himself in the role of kingmaker under New Zealand's proportional voting system.

He opted for National in 1996 in return for being made deputy prime minister and backed Labour in 2005 after it agreed to make him foreign minister.

The New Zealand Herald reported earlier this year that Peters floated the idea of becoming prime minister during the 1996 coalition talks but neither National nor Labour seriously considered it. — AFP