New Zealand’s general election saw the victory of the ruling centre-right National Party, allowing John Key (photo, from telegraph.co.uk) to return as prime minister after three years in office.
“For another three years there will be a National-led government in New Zealand,” PM John Key told a gathering of supporters in Auckland.
The country’s opposition Labour Party recognised its defeat.
“The people have made their decision and we treat their decision with humility and respect,” opposition leader Phil Goff told his supporters on Saturday.
Before the election the National Party had 58 of 121 in Parliament, it won 60 in Saturday’s general election, which is the biggest share any party has gained since 1996 when the country switched to proportional representation.
It was not a good night for the Labour party which lost nine seats in Parliament by winning 34 seats in the election.
After coming up just short of being able to govern alone, the National Party will now turn to minor parties to support his leadership.
Before the election the National Party was governing with the help of the ACT and United Future parties.
“We will be working on formal agreements with these parties over the coming days, but I can confirm this – their willingness to be part of a strong, stable National-led government,” Mr Key said, according to the Reuters news agency.
Mr Key will also hold talks with the indigenous Maori party which won three seats. The re-elected prime minister explained that even though he does not need it to govern, having the Maori Party with him would enable his government to work for a wider range of people.
However the Maori Party has expressed its disagreement with Mr Key’s plans to sell off state assets.
The Green Party had 9 seats before the election in which it gained 4 more.
But the surprise of this election was the return to parliament of the populist New Zealand First part. After being voted out of parliament completely three years ago it won 8 seats.
According to observers voters have warmed to Mr Key over his handling of both the Christchurch earthquakes and the deadly blast at the Pike River mine in November 2010.
“Over the past 15 months, New Zealand has experienced more than its fair share of challenges, but as a country we have risen to them,”, Mr Key said during his victory speech.
“We have shown that in the worst of times you have seen the very best of New Zealanders.”
Analysts also believe that the All Blacks’ victory last month in the Rugby World Cup created played in his favor in the rugby-mad nation.
But economy issues dominated the election campaign. Mr Key said he would build on policies of the past three years with an emphasis on sparking economic growth by cutting debt, curbing spending, selling state assets and returning to a budget surplus by 2014/15.
On the same day as the general election, New Zealanders were voting on whether to keep the German-style Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system.
This system means that each voter has two votes : one for a constituency MP and another to determine a party’s percentage share of the seats in parliament.
The result of MMP has been a fractured House, led by coalition governments since 1996. Before that National of Labour enjoyed absolute majorities under First Past the Post.
Although final results of the referendum have not been declared yet, early results show that around 55 per cent of voters do not want to change the system.