New Zealand’s main opposition National Party has taken a strong lead in early election counting, putting it on track to wrest power from the ruling Labour Party.
(Bloomberg) — New Zealand’s main opposition National Party has taken a strong lead in early election counting, putting it on track to wrest power from the ruling Labour Party.
With 50% of votes tallied, National had 41% while Labour trailed on 26%. Among minor parties, the Greens had 10% support and ACT New Zealand was on 9%. New Zealand First, which may play a kingmaker role in the formation of a new government, had 6%. The Electoral Commission aims to have preliminary results from 95% of voting places by 11:30 p.m. local time.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon is poised to become New Zealand’s next prime minister, ending Labour’s six years in office with a switch to a center-right administration. However if National and its ally, the libertarian ACT Party, fall short of a majority between them, they will need the support of New Zealand First, led by the maverick Winston Peters.
Ousted from parliament at the last election in 2020, nationalist New Zealand First is above the 5% threshold required to return to parliament.
Another feature of the early results is a surge in support for Te Pāti Māori — the party that stands for the rights of the indigenous Māori people — which is on track to win five of seven seats reserved for voters on the Māori roll. Those seats have traditionally been held by Labour.
If Te Pāti Māori wins more seats than its share of the party vote implies, it would create a so-called overhang and increase the size of parliament beyond 120 seats.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has struggled to convince New Zealanders that Labour deserves a third term as the economy stutters amid a cost-of-living crisis.
The cost of living dominated the election campaign, with Labour pledging to remove a sales tax from fruit and vegetables and National promising tax cuts to ease pressure on household budgets. But neither of the two major party leaders electrified voters the way former prime minister Jacinda Ardern did at the last two elections.
Read More: Ardern Legacy Hangs Over New Zealand Vote as Rivals Fall Flat
Ardern is the only leader to secure an outright majority since New Zealand switched to proportional representation in 1996.
The electoral system lends itself to coalition governments, and talks between the winning parties can take several weeks. ACT and New Zealand First would both expect policy concessions and ministerial posts in return for their support.
While the final shape of a new government will determine which policies are implemented, all three parties on the right have campaigned on cutting government spending, getting tougher on criminals and welfare beneficiaries, and halting moves to give Māori a bigger role in decision-making on local authorities.
All three also favor farmer-friendly policies, and could be expected to delay plans to tax agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
But there are also disagreements, not least over National’s flagship tax-cuts plan that would be partially funded by removing a ban on the sale of expensive homes to foreigners and collecting a levy on each transaction.
Complicating matters, Peters and ACT leader David Seymour have a history of acrimony and have been openly hostile toward each other. Seymour has said he doesn’t trust Peters.
(Updates vote count)
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