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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Maori Nationalist Holds Key to New Zealand Vote

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- Winston Peters, New Zealand's nationalist politician who assumed the role of kingmaker following an inconclusive election result last weekend, is about to exact his price.

Without clear majorities of their own in a new parliament, the ruling National Party and the rival Labour opposition, need coalition partners for their rival bids to form a government.

Peters' New Zealand First Party won 17 seats in the 120-member parliament, well behind Labour with 37 and National with 44. But his minority bloc holds the balance of power.

"It will be a bidding. That what this process is all about,'' Peters has told reporters adding that negotiations might take five weeks.

National and Labour have few things in common with Peters' populist policies, which include plans to curb immigration and institute tough controls on foreign investment in New Zealand companies, natural resources and real estate.

Peters, a 50-year-old indigenous Maori lawyer, is a blunt talking former Cabinet minister and old-style candidate. His rhetoric was aimed at voters disillusioned by the free-market reforms of the main parties, which have brought massive changes to the once tightly regulated society.

With the political future of New Zealand at sea the day after the ballot, Peters cheekily chose to go sailing rather than reveal his intentions.

When Labour leader Helen Clark, who wants to be New Zealand's first female prime minister, tried to initiate negotiations, he declined to take her call.