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Maori Party may hold key

in New Zealand elections

New Zealand’s indigenous Maori minority went into elections Saturday inspired by Barack Obama’s victory in the United States and with a chance of securing the balance of power at home.

Obama’s election as the United States’ first African-American president reverberated across the world as a triumph over old stereotypes, a chord that rang especially true for minority groups.

Maori account for 15 percent of New Zealand’s 3.4 million population and are its poorest, worst-housed and least-healthy citizens.


A close contest could give the Maori Party the role of kingmaker and a huge influence on government policy.

The two major parties — Prime Minister Helen Clark’s Labour and conservative John Key’s Nationals — are almost certain not to gain a majority in the 123-seat Parliament in their own right.

A complex proportional voting system ensures significant numbers of seats will go to a handful of small parties.

The big parties have wooed smaller allies to their side, and only the Maori Party remains unaligned.

Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia said it is prepared to put either National or Labour into government — depending who comes up with the best deal.

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