Sat, Sep 20, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Election-eve polls point to New Zealand cliffhanger


New Zealand political leaders made their final pitch to voters yesterday as election-eve polls pointed to New Zealand Prime Minister John Key scraping a win.

Key, who is seeking a third term, said his support remained solid despite dirty tricks allegations against his center-right government, while Labour Party leader David Cunliffe said he saw a growing mood for change.

Both leaders predicted the outcome would be close under New Zealand’s complicated proportional voting system, which is notoriously hard to predict and has not delivered a majority government since it was introduced in 1996.

A New Zealand Herald poll showed Key’s National Party on 48.2 percent, down 0.4 percent from a week earlier, with the Labour Party up 3.7 percent on 26.1 percent and its left-wing ally the Green Party at 12 percent.

That would allow Key to return to power with support from the minor parties that already form part of his coalition government.

He said the electorate had not been swayed by allegations his government used underhand tactics to smear its opponents and backed mass surveillance of the population, saying that the public are more interested in “stable leadership and a growing economy.”

“There’s been all these distractions and different issues going on but the polling hasn’t really moved,” Key said to reporters. “There’s just the natural tightening you get in any [campaign] cycle.”

However, Cunliffe cited another poll published by Fairfax Media which recorded a large, potentially decisive, swing of 5.1 percent against the government over the past week, reducing its support to 47.7 percent.

The poll had Labour on 26.1 percent and the Green Party on 12 percent, putting them within striking distance of forming the government if they can win backing from political maverick Winston Peters’ New Zealand First Party.

Cunliffe said that, on those figures, a swing of as little as 1 percent could result in a change of government.

“I feel a huge momentum for change building up in the electorate,” he said in an interview on Radio New Zealand. “I can feel it, it’s palpable and my message to New Zealanders is to be part of the change and get out there and vote.”

Voting begins at 9am and closes at 7pm for the 3.06 million registered voters. First indications of the election outcome are expected within four hours of the polls closing.

There are 71 electorates with the remaining seats filled through party votes bringing the number of MPs in parliament to around 120 under the proportional voting system.

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