New Zealand’s 3 million voters head to the polls today with National Party leader John Key expected to retain power for a third term as prime minister.
Polling predicts his centre-right party has a narrow lead over the opposition Labour Party.
Yesterday’s New Zealand Herald poll had the National party on 48.2%, down factionally on a week again. Labour jumped nearly 4% 26.1 per cent but would need the support of the Greens currently at 12% to form government.
Voting is voluntary in New Zealand and the weather, which is predicted to be poor today, plays a major part in voter turn out. The country also uses proportional voting, which makes it difficult for a party to form majority government in the 121-seat parliament. Key has been prime minister since 2008, but the country hasn’t had a majority leader since the system began in 1996.
Key’s rival in a presidential-style campaign is businessman David Cunliffe, a former diplomat who took over he Labour Party 12 months ago as it languished in the polls.
Like Australia’s election 12 months ago, both leaders suffer from poor personal approval ratings, with Key damaged by a recent book, Dirty Politics, detailing the alleged links between the PM’s office and bloggers who smeared political opponents, while Cunliffe’s approval is less than 15%.
Adding to the political drama is Kim Dotcom, the colourful, outspoken founder of file hosting service Mega, currently fighting internet piracy charges.
He formed the Internet Party in the lead up to the election and like Clive Palmer in Australia, stands a chance of taking a disruptive seat or two. Dotcom’s chances were bolstered following a forum at Auckland town hall which alleged that the New Zealand government had been involved in mass domestic surveillance. US security whistleblower Edward Snowden and journalist Glenn Greenwald, who covered the Wikileaks story, made the claims during addresses to the rally delivered online.
The result of today’s New Zealand election is likely to be known around 8pm eastern Australian time.
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