New Zealand profile - Leaders

  • 20 September 2014
  • From the section Asia

Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a governor-general

Prime minister: John Key

John Key, who has been prime minister since the end of 2008, secured a third term in office for his National Party in the elections of September 2014.

His party's 2008 victory ended nine years of Labour-led government, and the 2014 election result showed a swing to conservative parties, with the liberal Labour and Green parties losing ground.

Mr Key confirmed his popularity with New Zealanders, increasing his vote despite a tumultuous campaign marked by allegations of dirty tricks and mass spying.

His National Party won 61 of 121 seats, making him the first New Zealand leader to be able to govern in his own right since the country introduced proportional voting in 1996.

The National Party fell short of a parliamentary majority in both the 2008 and 2011 elections and was compelled to form a coalition with other parties.

Personal fortune

Born in 1961 and brought up in relative poverty by his Austrian-Jewish immigrant mother after the early death of his father, Mr Key became a currency trader and has acquired a substantial personal fortune.

He rose to be head of foreign exchange at Merrill Lynch in Singapore, and served as a member of the Foreign Exchange Committee of the New York Federal Reserve Bank in 1999-2001.

National Party president John Slater encouraged him to enter politics in 2001, and Mr Key was elected to parliament the following year. He was appointed opposition finance spokesman in 2004, and became party leader in 2006 after Don Brash resigned over allegations of election-funding irregularities.

New Zealand has a single-chamber parliament, the House of Representatives, which is elected for a three-year term. Coalition governments have been the norm since proportional representation replaced the "first past the post" electoral system in 1993.4.

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