Prime Minister Helen Clark today set the General Election for Saturday, November 8.
Clark has ambitions of leading the Labour Party into a fourth term of government despite a marked decline in the economy and flagging popular support amongst the electorate.
Since 1993, New Zealand has used a mixed member proportional (MMP) representation voting system in which the voter casts two votes - a vote for an electorate or constituency representative and a second vote for a party. Parties that receive 5 percent of the party vote are entitled to a share of the 120 seats in the House of Representatives. More details here.
In the 2008 election there will be 63 general electorates, 7 Māori electorates and 50 list seats.
Voters regularly cast 25-33 percent of their party votes for minor parties rather than the two major parties of Labour or National so that either major party must seek an accommodation with one or more of the minor parties to form a government.
Currently, the Labour government with 50 seats in Parliament is a minority government, 11 seats short of an absolute majority, relying on agreements with three minor parties - New Zealand First, United Future, and The Green Party - for confidence and supply in order to remain in office.
Recent opinion polls suggest that the National Party will either run Labour close for the most seats in the 2008 election or be in a position to seek to form a minority government with smaller parties after the election.