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New Zealand PM calls national election for Sept 23
[WELLINGTON] New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English called an election on Wednesday for Sept 23 after taking over as premier in December following the unexpected resignation of his predecessor, John Key.
Mr English's centre-right National Party has governed for the past eight years and is seeking a fourth straight term, this time without the popular Mr Key. The next election was due around September this year.
A poll by Roy Morgan in January showed the National Party more than 6 per cent ahead of the rival coalition of the Labour Party and The Greens, enough to comfortably win re-election.
Mr English, a political veteran who previously served as finance minister, said the government would seek to win re-election on the back of its economic record. "The National Party will be campaigning on its strong record as a government and New Zealand's strong economic performance," Mr English told reporters in Wellington.
New Zealand in December forecast the 2016/17 budget surplus at NZ$473 million (US$343.87 million), which is expected to grow to NZ$8.5 billion by 2020/21, despite a commitment of NZ$2 billion to repair infrastructure damaged by a major earthquake in November.
New Zealand is a small, export-dependent nation which would be vulnerable to US protectionism under newly-elected President Donald Trump, while domestically its central bank has warned about an overheated housing market, which is stirring voter complaints about affordability.