Conservatives win New Zealand elections

November 8th, 2008 - 6:18 pm ICT by IANS  

Wellington, Nov 8 (DPA) New Zealand’s conservative National Party swept into power Saturday in a general election that saw an overwhelming vote for change after nine years of rule by Prime Minister Helen Clark’s Labour-led coalition.The Nationals won 11 seats in Parliament and their free market coalition partners ACT gained three in a swing to the right that cost Labour seven members.

With the final count still to be confirmed, Television New Zealand predicted the Nationals and their allies would have 64 seats in the new parliament of 122, against 53 for Labour and their Green coalition partners.

Commentators speculated that the Maori Party, which was on course to win at least five of the seven seats reserved for the indigenous people, would also support the new government, though it may stay outside the formal coalition.

Television New Zealand said Clark had telephoned the Nationals’ leader John Key - the richest man in parliament - to admit defeat after nearly 99 percent of the crucial party vote had been counted, with the Nationals holding 45 percent of the count and Labour 33 percent.

The Greens - the only minor party to top the 5 percent needed to guarantee a place in parliament - gained two seats and will have eight members in the new parliament, not enough to help Labour form a new centre-left government.

New Zealanders have two votes - one for their local constituency member of parliament and the other for a party. The party vote is the most important in deciding the government.

The Nationals had 45 percent of the vote against Labour’s 33 percent, with the Greens the only other party above the 5 percent needed to guarantee seats in parliament.

A high profile casualty of the election was Winston Peters, leader of the nationalist New Zealand First party and former foreign minister in Labour Prime Minister Helen Clark’s minority government.

Peters was beaten by a National Party newcomer in his traditional seat of Tauranga and his party failed to reach the 5 percent of the vote needed to remain in the House of Representatives.

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