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New Zealand to Have Youngest Prime Minister Since 1856

  • Phil Mercer

New Zealand Labour leader Jacinda Ardern smiles as she speaks to the press after leader of New Zealand First party Winston Peters announced his support for her party in Wellington, New Zealand, Oct. 19, 2017.

New Zealand will have a center-left coalition government led by the nation’s youngest prime minister in more than 150 years.

When New Zealanders voted in a general election almost a month ago, neither of the two major parties, the center-right National party, which had been in power for nearly a decade and won more seats than its rivals, and the left-of-center Labour party, managed to win an outright majority in parliament.

Both had been attempting to form a coalition government following the September vote.

Peters chooses

For weeks they have been negotiating with Winston Peters, the maverick leader of the nationalist New Zealand First party that won nine seats, and wants to curb immigration and foreign ownership of property.

Peters said he was faced with a decision between “modified status quo or change” and decided to go for change.

He will form a government with Labour and the Greens, another minor party.

Ardern takes control

The prime minister will be 37-year-old Labour leader Jacinda Ardern, who only took control of her party a few weeks before the election.

She says there are three main reasons her three-party coalition will succeed.

“The first is the nature of the agreements, the second is the relationships I have formed with the leaders of both parties and the final reason (is) Labour has been in an agreement with New Zealand First before,” she said. “We have formed a coalition government based on the majority of votes and based therefore on what the majority of New Zealanders sought in this election.”

Labour campaigned heavily on trying to persuade young New Zealanders with policies on education subsidies, the environment and housing.

New Zealand is a former British colony in the South Pacific Ocean with a population of about 4.5 million. Elections are held about every three years.

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