NZ’s ruling National Party wins most votes as First Party holds balance of power

New Zealand’s ruling National Party won the largest number of votes in the country’s general election on Saturday, securing a comfortable margin over the Labour Party after what had promised to be the most hotly contested race in recent history.

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National and Labour had been almost neck and neck in opinion polls, with charismatic 37-year old Jacinda Ardern almost single-handedly dragging Labour back into the race after taking over the party’s leadership in August.

National took 46 per cent of the vote, the Electoral Commission said, while support for Labour was 35.8 per cent.

A final tally including overseas votes will be released on October 7.

0:00 National Party needs to negotiate with ‘tricky’ Winston Peters Share National Party needs to negotiate with ‘tricky’ Winston Peters

The results set up the nationalist New Zealand First Party to hold the balance of power and form the next government with 7.5 per cent of the ballot.

Veteran New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has been a minister under both major parties and has not said which party he would favour as a coalition partner. Previously he has backed the party with the largest number of votes.

All party leaders said they would have conversations over the next few days, with some of them already trying to woo Peters on election night.

“I want to acknowledge the strong performance of Winston Peters and New Zealand First,” Bill English said in a speech to his supporters.

“They’re just trading votes on the left,” a young National supporter tells me, “the right is as strong as ever.” #nzelection

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) September 23, 2017

“The voters of New Zealand have given New Zealand First a role in forming the next government,” he said.

For English, who campaigned heavily on National’s economic credentials after taking the party leadership last year, the strong showing was a vindication after National crashed to its worst ever election result in 2002 under his first stint as leader.

Opinion polls leading up to the vote had been volatile with two recent ones giving National a near 10 point lead over Labour. National has been in power for nearly a decade.

“Bill English and National have taken the largest number of votes. I’ve called Bill and acknowledged that,” Ardern told her supporters, adding she was planning conversations with both the Green and New Zealand First parties.

“It’s not over yet,” she said.

Peters sounded buoyant but kept his cards close to his chest.

“We have been strong enough and honest enough with our supporters to make it home,” he said.

New Zealand First had “not all the cards but we do have the main cards,” he added, saying he would not be rushed into giving any answers immediately.

0:00 Jacinda Ardern speaks after NZ election count Share Jacinda Ardern speaks after NZ election count

‘Special votes’

Ardern and English were expected to maintain fiscal prudence, but to differ on monetary policy, trade and immigration.

That would likely have implications for the New Zealand dollar, the world’s 11th most-traded currency in 2016. 

The New Zealand dollar has tended to rise when National rose in the polls.

“The thin trading conditions typical of early morning in Asia mean a sharp but short-lived move on the NZD is possible on Monday,” said Joseph Carpuso, senior currency strategist at CBA.      

New Zealand uses a German-style proportional representation system in which a party, or combination of parties, needs 61 of Parliament’s 120 members – usually about 48 percent of the vote – to form a government.

The results secured 58 seats for National in parliament, and 45 for Labour. New Zealand First has nine seats and Greens, which won 5.8 per cent of the votes, have seven.

It feels like National relief has evolved into supporter smugness. But @pmbillenglish is careful: “We may be able to form govt” #nzelection

— Nastasya Tay (@NastasyaTay) September 23, 2017

National’s 58 seats were higher than Labour and Greens put together at 52, but neither combination had enough to govern on their own.

“It’s all over, bar the special votes – but even they won’t change the basic maths. They won’t change any crucial seats and National is extremely unlikely to go up. So Winston Peters rules,” said Bryce Edwards, an analyst at Wellington-based Critical Politics.

A record 1.2 million ballots were cast before the day of the election, accounting for about a third of the 3.3 million New Zealanders enrolled to vote.

“Special votes”, which include ballots from New Zealanders overseas and those who vote outside their home constituencies, will be released on October 7.

These are estimated to represent 15 percent of total votes and could have a considerable impact.

“I would expect us to get a bit of a lift out of those special votes,” said Ardern.

0:00 Maori Party ‘changed face’ of New Zealand politics Share Maori Party ‘changed face’ of New Zealand politics

600,000 sign petition to overturn London Uber ban

Friday’s decision to ban the ride-sharing service was “affecting the real lives of a huge number of honest and hard-working drivers” and would “show the world that London is far from being open and is closed to innovative companies,” the petition said.

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Transport for London said the conduct of Uber, which has around 40,000 drivers and 3.5 million customers in the British capital, had raised safety concerns.

“TfL has concluded that Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence,” it said in a statement.

It said Uber’s “approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications”, citing concerns over background checks of drivers.

The petition, on change南京楼凤,, said that Uber provided a “safe, reliable and affordable ride”, and thar its users would be “astounded” by the ban.

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“By wanting to ban our app from the capital, Transport for London and their chairman the Mayor have given in to a small number of people who want to restrict consumer choice,” it added.

The licence expires on September 30 but Uber has 21 days to appeal the decision, and has said it plans a challenge.

0:00 Angry taxi drivers block London streets protesting Uber Share Angry taxi drivers block London streets protesting Uber

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn on Saturday backed his London mayor Sadiq Khan, telling Sky News that authorities had done the “right thing”.

“Obviously people need to be able to travel, obviously they want to be able to access cabs,” he said. “Those cabs must be safe, must be regulated and must be available for all.”

 

Finch shines with century in ODI return

Australian opener Aaron Finch has scored his eighth one-day international century with a powerful display against India in his return from injury.

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Finch missed the first two games with a calf complaint as Australia slumped to 2-0 down in the five-match series making victory in Indore crucial to their hopes of winning the series.

The 30-year-old Victorian made 124 off 125 balls, plundering 17 boundaries including five sixes to help his side into a strong position on Sunday.

Finch had no trouble clearing the short boundaries at Holkar Stadium after skipper Steve Smith won the toss and chose to bat first.

He smashed four of his five sixes off Indian spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav.

But Yadav eventually claimed his wicket with a slog sweep hit straight down Kedar Jadhav’s throat at deep mid-wicket.

With batting collapses Australia’s chief concern coming into the match, Finch provided a steady hand at the top of the order as he reunited with long-time opening partner David Warner.

Finch and Warner put on 70 for the first wicket before skipper Steve Smith came to the crease.

Smith, who has spoken about success being underpinned by batting partnerships, teamed up with Finch for a second wicket stand of 174.

After starting watchfully, Finch eased into his innings and brought up his fifty from 61 deliveries.

He reached his ton in 110 balls before putting his foot on the accelerator only to be brought undone after not middling another six attempt.

Finch replaced makeshift opener Hilton Cartwright who was bowled for one in the first two matches of the series.

Germany votes as Merkel heads for win, hard-right AfD for first seats

Surveys suggest Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU alliance has a double-digit lead over its nearest rivals, the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) led by Martin Schulz.

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Polling stations opened at 0600 GMT in Europe’s top economy and will close at 1600 GMT.

With four other parties predicted to clear the five-percent bar to enter into the Bundestag, the highest number since the 1950s, it could take months of coalition wrangling before the next government takes shape.

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0:00 SBS Chief International Correspondent Brett Mason previews Germany’s election Share SBS Chief International Correspondent Brett Mason previews Germany’s election

Mainstream parties however have already ruled out talking to the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD), which is polling at 11 to 13 percent and could emerge as Germany’s third-strongest party.

Alarmed by the prospect of what Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel branded “real Nazis” entering the Bundestag for the first since the end of World War II, politicians used their final days of campaigning to urge voters to reject the rightwing populist AfD.

“This Alternative for Germany is no alternative. They are a shame for our nation,” former European Parliament chief Schulz said at a rally on Friday.

Gabrielle: “I hope it will be #Merkel. She’s a Christian. She’s for peace. And Mr Trump is for war.” #BTW2017 pic南京夜生活,/ZZzWvbDDv6

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) September 24, 2017

The latest surveys put support for Merkel’s conservative block at 34-36 percent, with the SPD trailing at 21-22 percent — which would translate into a historic low for the party.

Despite bracing for a drubbing, Schulz was all smiles as he and his wife cast their ballot in his western hometown of Wuerselen.

Of those voters: 31.7 million are women, 29.8 million are men and around 3 million are first time voters #BTW2017 #GermanyDecides

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) September 24, 2017

Merkel, 63, whose campaign events were regularly disrupted by jeering AfD protesters, said at her final stump speech in the southern city of Munich that “the future of Germany will definitely not be built with whistles and hollers”.

Observers say a strong showing by the AfD, which has capitalised on anger over the influx of a million migrants and refugees since 2015, will hit Germany like a bombshell.

“If the AfD becomes the leading opposition party, they will challenge key themes,” said Thorsten Benner, director of the Global Public Policy Institute in Berlin. “It will very much change the tone of debate in parliament.”

Aside from the populist noise, the past two months of campaigning have been widely criticised as lacklustre, with few hot-button issues dividing the main contenders.

Commentators say Merkel’s reassuring message of stability and prosperity has resonated in greying Germany, where more than half of the 61 million voters are aged 52 or older.

0:00 Germany election 2017: Five things you should know about the German election Share Germany election 2017: Five things you should know about the German election

Europe’s most powerful woman appears all but assured of winning another term, matching the 16-year reign of her mentor Helmut Kohl.

Schulz on the other hand has struggled to gain traction with his calls for a more socially just Germany at a time when the economy is humming and employment is at a record low.

The SPD has also found it hard to shine after four years as the junior partner in Merkel’s left-right “grand coalition”, marked by broad agreement on major topics, from foreign policy to migration.

In the final stretch, the more outspoken Schulz told voters to reject Merkel’s “sleeping-pill politics” and vote against “another four years of stagnation and lethargy”.

Germany’s best-selling daily Bild at the weekend said 61-year-old Schulz found his voice as he neared the finish line, and praised him for “fighting until the end”.

“Germany doesn’t just need a chancellor. It also needs an opposition leader. Schulz has started to sound like one,” the newspaper wrote. 

Die Zeit: “Be careful, Germany!” #GermanyDecides #BTW2017 @SBSNews pic南京夜生活,/cQ0doyqzgZ

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) September 24, 2017Undecided

The CDU and the SPD have signalled they aren’t keen to continue their loveless marriage, and many rank-and file SPD members believe the traditional working class party would benefit from a stint in opposition to rekindle its fighting spirit.

This would leave the presumed winner Merkel in need of new coalition partners — possibly the liberal and pro-business Free Democrats, who are hoping for a comeback after crashing out of parliament four years ago.

Another potential partner would be the ecologist and left-leaning Greens party, which, however, starkly differs with the FDP on issues from climate change to migration policy.

Ulf: “I hope that today we secure a free, democratic Europe” #BTW2017 pic南京夜生活,/x2NQrJCX0v

— Brett Mason (@BrettMasonNews) September 24, 2017

Pundits have pointed out that a significant number of voters remained undecided until the last minute, suggesting the final outcome could throw up some surprises depending on turnout.

In the western city of Frankfurt, 66-year-old Harald said he was still unsure who to vote for as he headed home from his night shift as a security guard in the leafy Westend suburb.

“I will make up my mind once I’m in the polling booth. You can forget about the AfD,” he told AFP.

0:00 Angela Merkel’s CDU campaigning to the ‘prosperity and security for all’ manifesto Share Angela Merkel’s CDU campaigning to the ‘prosperity and security for all’ manifesto

Here are some facts and figures about the country:

GEOGRAPHY: The Federal Republic of Germany is bordered to the north by Denmark, to the west by France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, to the south by Switzerland and Austria and to the east by the Czech Republic and Poland.

The country covers 357,050 square kilometres (137,850 square miles). The landscape rises from lowlands on the North and Baltic seas to the Bavarian Alps in the south. The biggest rivers are the Rhine, Elbe and Danube.

CAPITAL: Berlin, with 3.5 million inhabitants, is Germany’s biggest city and the second biggest in the European Union after London.

POPULATION: The EU’s most populous country, Germany had 82.8 million inhabitants at the end of 2016, including 10 million foreigners. Germany has the highest population of ethnic Turks outside Turkey, at about three million. It is one of Europe’s most densely populated countries, at 232 people per square kilometre. With a low birth rate, the population is ageing and shrinking.

0:00 Germany election 2017: What you need to know about the AfD party Share Germany election 2017: What you need to know about the AfD party

RELIGION: Christianity is the main religion in Germany, with a third of the country Protestants and a similar number Catholics. Other major religious groups in Germany include Muslims, who are estimated at 4.4 million and a Jewish population of 99,000.

HISTORY: Otto von Bismarck, the “Iron Chancellor”, founded the German Empire in 1871 from many independent states, dominated by the Kingdom of Prussia.

After four years of bitter fighting, Germany suffered a devastating defeat in World War I and the humiliating conditions of the peace settlement contributed to the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis in 1933.

Hitler unleashed the Holocaust and plunged Europe and the world into its bloodiest-ever conflict that resulted in the death of tens of millions of people and the division of Germany and Berlin into four zones, shared by the victorious powers – Britain, France, the Soviet Union and the United States.

0:00 Martin Schulz’s SPD campaigning on ‘a future plan for modern Germany’ Share Martin Schulz’s SPD campaigning on ‘a future plan for modern Germany’

Divided Germany became the key Cold War battleground between nuclear superpowers Russia and the United States, whose tanks faced each other across the Berlin Wall, which was finally and jubilantly torn down by people power in 1989. Germany was reunified in 1990.

POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS: Germany has two houses of parliament, the Bundestag (lower house) and Bundesrat (upper house, representing the 16 federal states).

The head of government or chancellor is now Angela Merkel, the leader of the centre-right Christian Democratic Union.

She has governed since 2005 and was re-elected in September 2009, ruling with Bavarian sister party the Christian Social Union and, in her second term, with junior partners the pro-business Free Democrats. She now leads a coalition with the Social Democratic Party as junior partners.

There is also a president, a largely symbolic head of state, currently Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a former foreign minister who was sworn in in March 2017.

Germany is a founding member of the European Economic and Monetary Union, launched in 1999, and was among the first 11 countries to physically use the euro currency on January 1, 2002.

ECONOMY: Germany is Europe’s leading economic power and the world’s second-largest exporter after China, mainly of vehicles, machinery, high-tech goods and chemicals. Big companies include auto makers Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen, Porsche and Audi and industrial conglomerates ThyssenKrupp and Siemens. The main financial centre is Frankfurt.

GDP: 3.134 trillion euros ($3.760 trillion) in 2016 or 48,839 euros per capita.

UNEMPLOYMENT: 5.7 percent in August 2017.

ARMED FORCES: The German armed forces had 178,304 personnel in June 2017. The constitution states they can be used only “for defensive purposes”. The army requires parliamentary consent for any missions abroad. Conscription was ended in 2011.

 

Germany federal election 2017: The final countdown

With only days until Germany heads to the polls on September 24, here’s a recap of the race in the lead up to election day.

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Where do Germany’s two chancellor candidates stand on key issues?

FOREIGN POLICY:

On the issue of North Korea, Social Democrat Martin Schulz argues US President Donald Trump is not the right person to solve tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Chancellor Angela Merkel says although she disagrees with Mr Trump on many issues, solving the current situation without his involvement is impossible.

Mr Schulz says if he were to become chancellor he would stop EU accession talks for Turkey, while Ms Merkel says Germany should not push for a break in the negotiations although she believes there should be a freeze on any payments from the European Union to help with Turkey’s accession.

0:00 Germany’s AfD vows to dethrone Merkel Share Germany’s AfD vows to dethrone Merkel

MIGRATION:

Mr Schulz accuses Ms Merkel of not informing other European Union nations properly of Germany’s plan, two years ago, to allow in refugees who were stuck in Hungary.

The chancellor says the government simply acted in accordance with the laws laid down in the country’s constitution.

Both candidates agree that the EU-Turkey agreement on refugees should be maintained, despite human rights abuses committed by Ankara.

0:00 How Europe will impact the German election Share How Europe will impact the German election

SECURITY AND ISLAMIC EXTREMISM:

The chancellor argues authorities need to have more tools at their disposal to conduct video and social media surveillance.

Mr Schulz says he wants 15,000 more police jobs created and officers should not be tied up with so much bureaucracy.

On the topic of radicalisation, Ms Merkel says a version of Islam which abides by Germany’s constitution is welcome in the country.

Both candidates say preachers who spread extreme views in Germany’s mosques should not be tolerated.

SOCIAL JUSTICE:

Mr Schulz argues although Germany is a wealthy country, not all people in the country are doing well, citing single parents, pensioners and long-term unemployed.

He says he will campaign for free kindergartens to try to lighten the financial burden on parents.

Ms Merkel counters the number of unemployed has sunk from 5 million to 2.5 million since she took over as chancellor.

Mr Schulz wants to reduce taxes on families and also force the top tax rate to apply to those earning higher.

The chancellor says she wants to save German taxpayers 15 billion euros over the next four years.

0:00 Refugees talk about upcoming German election Share Refugees talk about upcoming German election

COALITION OPTIONS:

Ms Merkel categorically rules out forming a coalition with the country’s Left Party or the right-wing AfD party, and avoids answering the question on whether she would enter into a partnership with the business-friendly Free Democrats (FDP).

Mr Schulz has refused to rule out his party could again form the junior partner in a grand coalition with Ms Merkel’s Christian Democrats, should they fail to win the vote on September 24.

Germany 2017: The final countdown