Prime Minister Mike Moore's Labor Party has conceded defeat in the country's general elections Saturday, with voting trends indicating a landslide victory for the National Party.
With about 30 percent of the votes counted, the Nationals, led by Jim Bolger, appear set to at least reverse Labor's 15-seat majority in the 97-seat Parliament.Early counting showed a swing of about 7 percent against the 6-year-old Labor administration, compounded by a similar increase in votes for the various environmental candidates.
Analysts predict Labor could be reduced to just 30 seats in the new Parliament, compared to the 56 seats it held in the outgoing Parliament.
Bolger, 55, the farmer son of Irish immigrant parents, said he recognized he has an enormous responsibility to the country, which faces high unemployment and a depressed economy.
"Next week let us begin on the path of true prosperity, on the path to recovery," he said in a victory speech.
Moore, 41, elevated to the Labor leadership seven weeks ago in a bid to stem flagging support in the opinion polls, said he was disappointed but not disillusioned by the result.
"We are defeated but not beaten," he said, adding he will hold the Nationals to their promise of maintaining the nuclear-free policy that Labor introduced in 1984.
The ban on nuclear ships visits cost New Zealand its defense relationship with the United States, provided under the ANZUS alliance between the two countries and Australia.
Bolger has said he will renegotiate new defense link with the United States while maintaining the ban on visits of nuclear-powered or armed ships.
Although Moore retained his seat, several Cabinet members have been voted out of the Parliament.
A depressed economy, coupled with high unemployment and bitter infighting within the party saw Labor trail badly in opinion polls leading up to the poll.