New Zealand Prime Minister John Key yesterday announced that general elections would held in November — an unusually lengthy heads-up he said was designed to avoid any distractions during the Rugby World Cup.
The rugby-obsessed nation was due to vote in elections sometime this year, and Key’s center-right National-led government is widely expected to comfortably win a second three-year term whenever they are held.
The Rugby World Cup will be held from Sept. 9 to Oct. 23 at various venues around the country.
Key named Nov. 26 as the election date — a little more than a month after the tournament final.
“This gives the public clarity,” Key told reporters.
“The Rugby World Cup is a huge opportunity for New Zealand, the biggest event it has ever staged, and we can showcase the country to billions of viewers. I don’t want to undermine that by playing politics with the election date,” he said.
New Zealand governments typically delay the announcement of elections to keep political rivals guessing and to give themselves a head start in campaigning.
Labour Party leader Phil Goff said his party would be ready for the campaign, though its poll ratings have been low since it was swept from power in 2008 after three straight terms.
“Labour will campaign on the issues that are affecting New Zealanders most,” Goff said.
“We know that people are worried about the soaring cost of living with prices rising much faster than wages — that will be a key issue this election,” he said.
Key said he thought the early announcement unprecedented. He said his National Party, which governs in a center-right coalition with the ACT, United Future and Maori Parties, would stand on its record of responsible economic management.
Key has unprecedented popularity since he became prime minister in the 2008 election. His personal popularity has also lifted his government to consistently high poll ratings.