Winston Peters has implored his MPs to keep an open mind when it comes to choosing the next Government - and he is confident they will do so after intense and complex negotiations resume today.
National leader Bill English and Labour leader Jacinda Ardern are set for talks at Parliament with New Zealand First Party, after the Labour-Green bloc took two seats from National in the final election count.
The result has removed the clear advantage National had in preliminary results because the alternative Labour-Green bloc has gone from a bare majority to a cushion of two more.
But Peters said he was not leaning towards one party or the other.
"I've done my best to stress to my team the need for them to come in with an open mind," he told NewstalkZB.
"And if that is the case they can make far better judgments and think with far greater clarity than come in with bias or predilections that go in one way of the other without knowing the facts.
"I hope that they have understood that -- I believe they will have. That is certainly my position," Peters said.
"I think you do not do your side any good at all by going in with pre-ordained views so that the negotiations become a sham."
That was not his intention this time and nor had it been in 1996 when his party went into formal coalition with National.
It ended disastrously after Jenny Shipley rolled National Prime Minister Jim Bolger and later sacked Peters. He has since served in a Labour-led Government, from 2005-08.
The nature of the Government will be central to the negotiations. But the basic nature of the deal would not change, English told the Herald on Sunday.
"Whatever the variations of what things are called, policy trade-offs still get made and support gets given. Whatever language is used, that is still pretty basic."
He would offer a preference or agree that a formal coalition was inherently more stable than New Zealand First going on to the cross-benches. But he suggested that having the Greens in a three-way Government with New Zealand First would be less than ideal for Peters.
"Now there's a lot of experience around MMP it shouldn't be too difficult to find the arrangement that reflects the relative strengths of the parties and what they believe is going to work for an enduring Government.
"The challenge for the other parties is trying to get a stable arrangement with three parties including the Greens who have not been in Government for some time and could be quite difficult to manage from the point of view of Mr Peters. But that's up to them."
English and Ardern are both claiming a mandate to lead the county from the election outcome -- English as the leader of the biggest party by 10 seats, and Ardern as the leader of the largest party among three which voted against the current National-led Government.
Peters reiterated his view, however, that there was no such thing as a moral mandate under MMP.
"Moral mandate is a construction that has no democratic significance. The reality is under MMP you've got to get 50 per cent of the parliamentary vote plus one otherwise you can't make it work."
Peters says he can get a decision from his caucus and board by Thursday -- but there is no particular reason for negotiations to be held over just five days.
The turnout for the September 23 election was 79.8 per cent, a little higher than the 77.9 per cent in 2014, and the highest turnout since 2005 when 80.9 per cent voted.
Advance votes comprised 47 per cent of votes cast, compared with 30 per cent in 2014 and 15 per cent in 2011.