Ruling National Party claims victory in NZ poll

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National Party Leader and Prime Minister elect John Key celebratesImage source, Getty Images
Image caption,
PM John Key is celebrating victory, and a second term in office

New Zealand's ruling National Party has claimed victory in the country's general election.

"For another three years there will be a National-led government in New Zealand," PM John Key told a gathering of supporters in Auckland.

The opposition Labour party saw its vote slump and admitted defeat.

With all the results now in, the ruling National Party was on course to win 60 of 121 seats in Parliament, official figures showed.

"The people have made their decision and we treat their decision with humility and respect," said Labour leader Phil Goff.

The National Party looks set to continue governing with the help of the ACT and United Future parties, both of which have won one seat each.

"We will be working on formal agreements with these parties over the coming days, but I can confirm this - their willingness to be part of a strong, stable National-led government," Mr Key said, according to the Reuters news agency.

Mr Key is also said to be planning talks with the Maori Party, which won three seats.

The Maori Party has however expressed its opposition to Mr Key's plans to sell off state assets.

Meanwhile, the Green Party enjoyed its best showing to date in a parliamentary election, with support at around 11%.

The populist New Zealand First party also surprised many observers, returning to parliament with 7% of the vote.

The economy dominated the election campaign, with Mr Key promising to tackle national debt by selling stakes in state companies.

But more public attention focused on a row over the recording of a private conversation between Mr Key and a colleague after a media event. The contents of the recording have not been disclosed.

Observers say voters have warmed to Mr Key over his handling of both the Christchurch earthquakes and the deadly blast at the Pike River mine in November 2010.

The All Blacks' win in the Rugby World Cup also played in his favour, analysts believe.

New Zealanders were also voting on whether to keep proportional representation for the country's elections.

Early results indicate most voters have opted not to change the system.