The moral mandate has instead become more of a man date between Winston Peters and Bill English.

National believes it should be the first cab off the New Zealand First rank, even though it's lost two seats, one to Labour and the other to The Greens, in the special vote count. They still believe because they've got the most votes they should be forming the Government with Peters on Thursday.

Beating Labour at four successive elections, the first time it's been done since 1969, has been declared as an historic achievement by Bill English who in his statement reacting to the seat loss never even acknowledged their diminished numbers.

Voters clearly want National to form the next Government, English crowed.

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Peters isn't so sure. The moral mandate, he rightly says, doesn't exist under MMP. The mandate is 50 percent of the vote, plus one and the truth of the matter is that National now has no mates and has to convince Peters to become one even though just over a fortnight ago it was trying to destroy him.

When it comes to the governing majority there are now only two seats in it. With National it's a majority of 65, excluding Act as Peters most certainly would, in the 120 seat Parliament, and with Labour and The Greens it's 63.

So when the cards are laid on the table at Parliament, when the real talking starts, they're on a more equal footing.

Given the short time frame before the decision's made, which Peters is confident can be achieved, he's obviously looking at a similar agreement to the one he brokered with Helen Clark rather than the telephone book of demands he extracted from Jim Bolger in the first MMP Parliament in 1996.

He's likely to give the Government confidence, which essentially means supporting the Budget, but allows him take an opposing view on others issues, like he did when he raised eyebrows as Foreign Minister opposing the free trade agreement with China.

It's not ideal, as National discovered with its minnow mates on the Resource Management Act, but it's probably the best on offer and could be delivered in the timeframe set by Peters.

Of course there'll be the baubles of office, who offers the most on that front, is likely to walk away with the prize. The attraction for hitching his wagon to a Labour led Government though, must surely be that they're likely to get more than one term in office, providing everyone toes the line that is.

But National getting a fifth term is a remote possibility.

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