Sydney, Australia, Oct 2 (EFE).- More than 3.8 million New Zealanders are able to cast an early vote from Monday ahead of the general election, in which the opposition National Party is polling as favorite to win.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon hugs New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern after her valedictory speech at Parliament House in Wellington, New Zealand, 05 April 2023. EFE/EPA/MASANORI UDAGAWA AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
The New Zealand Electoral Commission opened more than 400 voting centers throughout the country, which will increase to 2,300 on Oct. 14, voting day, in order to allow early ballots.
Voting for around 1 million New Zealanders overseas opened on Sep. 27.
After casting his early vote, Christopher Luxon, the leader of the rightist National Party, told reporters in Auckland that he does not want to ally with the nationalist New Zealand First party, although if it came down to it, “I will at least pick up the phone” to call its leader Winston Peters to try to reach an agreement.
“I can’t guarantee that that will lead anywhere because let’s be clear, New Zealand First hasn’t come with National in 27 years,” he said.
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, leader of the ruling centrist Labour Party, is isolating after testing positive for Covid-19 on Sunday, so for now he is only campaigning virtually.
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins speaks to the media during a press conference at the South Bank Piazza during a visit to Brisbane, Australia, 23 April 2023. EFE/EPA/DARREN ENGLAND AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND OUT
Hipkins was health health minister and then Covid response minister under former leader Jacinda Ardern as they led the government’s hardline pandemic strategy that included lockdowns for just a few Covid cases and a strict border closure.
After Ardern resigned in January, saying she “no longer had enough in the tank” to keep going, Hipkins was appointed leader of the Labour Party and therefore prime minister. But the party heads into the polls weakened after six years — two terms — in power.
A 1News Verian poll last week suggested that the National Party would win with 36 percent of the vote, while Labour would obtain 26 percent. This would force the winner to form a coalition to ensure a majority of the 120 seats in parliament in order to govern.
The same poll predicted that the progressive Green Party, a traditional ally of Labour, would obtain 13 percent of the votes, while the right-wing ACT party could win 12 percent of the votes and the nationalist New Zealand First, another Labour ally, 6 percent.
The upcoming election in New Zealand, with a population of almost 5.1 million people, is mainly marked by the impact of strong inflation (6 percent) on the cost of living, access to housing, increasing crime and the climate crisis. EFE