New Zealanders will go to the polls on September 23 in an election set to be dominated by the economy and the need for stable government, Prime Minister Bill English said yesterday.
English, who took over as leader in the South Pacific nation in December following the shock resignation of his predecessor John Key, will seek a fourth term for the conservative National Party-led coalition.
Asked to nominate the focus of his campaign, English replied “growth”, pointing to an economy expanding at about 3.5% a year. He also said New Zealand needed continuity amid ongoing international political turmoil.
“(We) have provided successful and stable government, which matters more now at a time of uncertainty in many parts of the world,” he told reporters, after panning the implementation of US President Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from seven mainly Muslim nations.
However, the National Party will go into the election without arguably its strongest asset, former leader Key, who maintained strong personal popularity during his eight years in power. An opinion poll taken shortly after Key quit showed National’s support down 4.5 points at 45%, while the Labour-Green coalition rose 5.5 to 43%.
English said he expected a close election, which are held every three years, but added that was normal under New Zealand’s proportional voting system. “We will be taking nothing for granted,” he said, adding that he would prefer to work with National’s current coalition partners, the ACT, United Future and Maori parties.
But he refused to rule out forming government with New Zealand First, led by the populist Winston Peters, who has campaigned in the past for immigration curbs and reinstating economic trade barriers.
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