The voters have spoken, and now it is up to Winston Peters to listen. Too much is made of small parties' options when they are needed to construct a government. Peters is too astute to frustrate the clear will of the people.

He has also been in politics long enough to know what an achievement last night's result was for the National Party. To hold its vote at this level after nine years in government is unprecedented in our lifetime. No government has won a fourth term since 1969. If we still had first past the post, last night's result would be a landslide.

It is a historic achievement for National and particularly for Bill English who had to take over from a popular Prime Minister and maintain the Government's standing. When it came to the election he suddenly faced a lively young Labour leader.

Jacinda Ardern was a breath of fresh of air. She was positive and gave a voice to a younger generation. But in the end it was not close. Labour finished 10 points behind and the vote for NZ First and the Greens went down.

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Peters will be weighing all this up. So should the Green Party, whose conditional support would give National a majority too.

In every election under MMP so far, the party with more votes than any other has become the government.

Twice previously when Winston Peters had the option, he chose the party with the most votes, once National, once Labour. Peter Dunne has done the same.

No constitutional rule said they had to go with the winning party but they would have been mindful of something called "legitimacy". In politics it does not mean legality, it means the moral right to govern. A government needs more than majority support in Parliament, it needs the acknowledgment of those who did not vote for it that it has legitimacy.

Nobody in New Zealand yet knows for certain whether a government formed by parties that finished second and third or fourth would have legitimacy in the eyes of those who voted for the party first past the post, because it has not happened yet.

NZ First and the Greens, with Labour, could make it happen. But they would need to be sure all New Zealanders could respect its mandate.