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Opposition Leader Concedes Defeat in New Zealand Election - 2002-07-27

In New Zealand, the opposition National Party leader has conceded defeat in Saturday's elections, paving the way for Prime Minister Helen Clark to form a new government. With more than 80 percent of the votes from Saturday's poll counted, Ms. Clark's Labour Party held 41 percent of the vote.

As expected, Prime Minister Helen Clark's Labour Party will end up with just over 50 of the 120 seats in New Zealand's Parliament.

Despite Labour's strong showing, the party fell short of Ms. Clark's goal when she called the election of winning an overall majority in Parliament.

At the beginning of the campaign, the left-of-center Labour Party looked unstoppable, in part because of the country's strong economy.

However, Labour lost support in recent weeks, in part because of a debate with the Green Party over genetically modified foods.

To form a government, Labour will need to form a coalition.

Raymond Miller is a New Zealand political scientist. He says the prime minister faces some tough choices in forming a coalition, especially concerning the Green Party and New Zealand First, an anti-immigration party.

"Both would be extremely unpalatable to the prime minister," he said. "For a start, she has fallen out with the Greens…. And she would not feel at all comfortable with New Zealand First's policies on immigration, law-and-order and race relations."

New Zealand, with a population of just under four-million, elects a new government every three years. During its term in office, Labour has governed in a coalition with two minor parties.