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'Dirty tricks' will not stop Key win in NZ vote: polls

Claims of dirty tricks have not dented government support ahead of New Zealand's Sep 20 elections, according to two polls on Friday (Sep 5) which predict Prime Minister John Key will comfortably win a third term. 

WELLINGTON: Claims of dirty tricks have not dented government support ahead of New Zealand's Sep 20 elections, according to two polls on Friday (Sep 5) which predict Prime Minister John Key will comfortably win a third term. Despite weeks of allegations about underhand tactics aimed at New Zealand's conservative government, the polls show Key's National Party sweeping more than 50 per cent of the vote, enough for it to rule without the support of minor parties for the first time.

A New Zealand Herald poll put National's vote at 50.1 per cent, with Key's backing as preferred prime minister on 68.9 per cent, while a Fairfax Media survey had the party on 54.2 per cent and Key's personal rating at 51.7 per cent. In contrast, the opposition Labour Party polled 23.8 (NZ Herald) and 24.3 (Fairfax) per cent, with its leader David Cunliffe's personal popularity languishing at 14.0 and 15.8 per cent.

If replicated in the Sep 20 election, the result would see Key become the leader of New Zealand's first majority government since it adopted a German-style mixed-member proportional (MMP) electoral system in 1996.

Fairfax political commentator Tracy Watkins said the data showed the allegations of dirty tactics and smear campaigns that have dominated the election trail, and forced a senior minister to stand down, had not driven voters away from National. She declared the election was "all over bar the shouting", with National heading for a resounding win and Labour a trouncing.

The dirty tricks claims were sparked by a book published by journalist Nicky Hager last month that cited leaked emails from right-wing blogger Cameron Slater alleging senior members of Key's government colluded in efforts to smear their opponents. Since then, a drip feed of anonymous links to journalists and on social media have kept the allegations in the headlines.

Justice minister Judith Collins was forced to resign last Saturday when a 2011 email emerged suggesting she was linked to attempts to undermine the head of the Serious Fraud Office, one of the agencies she was responsible for. A National Party staffer has also been accused of illegally hacking into a Labour Party database while he was working in Key's office, and New Zealand's spy watchdog is investigating whether Slater was given privileged access to sensitive information.