Wellington: Prime Minister John Key announced
today that general elections will be held in New Zealand 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 is being held Sept 9-Oct 23 at
various venues around the country and is expected to be hugely
popular among New Zealand`s some 4 million people.
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
New Zealand governments typically delay the announcement
of elections to keep political rivals guessing and to give
themselves a head start in campaigning.
Phil Goff, leader of the opposition Labour Party, 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."
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.