(Updates with court decision on tape in fifth paragraph.)
Nov. 23 (Bloomberg) -- New Zealand Prime Minister John Key’s governing National Party widened its lead in a poll ahead of this weekend’s election as a court declined to rule whether a taped conversation he wanted secret can be released.
Support for National jumped 1.5 percentage points to 54 percent, according to a Fairfax Media-Research International poll taken Nov. 17-21, the Dominion Post reported. The main opposition Labour Party’s support was little changed at 26 percent, the Wellington-based newspaper reported. The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
Key, 50, would be able to govern alone if today’s poll was reflected in the Nov. 26 election. In 2008, Key won 45 percent of the vote and had 58 members in the 123-seat parliament. He was able to govern by getting support from the ACT and Maori parties and a sole United Future member.
“I want the maximum vote,” Key said today in a Radio New Zealand interview. “The bigger the vote we get, frankly, the more stability we have.”
The poll shows that National voters’ opinions weren’t swayed by Key’s complaints to police last week that a discussion between him and another politician was unlawfully taped. The High Court today declined to declare whether the conversation over a cup of tea with ACT Party candidate John Banks at a media event was private or public, the New Zealand Herald reported.
Making a court declaration would prejudice the police investigation, Justice Helen Winkelmann said in a ruling that makes it unlikely the recording can be published, the newspaper reported.
Voters are hoping Key will steer the economy through the consequences of the euro-area debt crisis better than Labour leader Phil Goff, 58. If re-elected, Key plans to carry into a second three-year term his agenda to sell state assets, end budget deficits and create 150,000 jobs.
Labour has pledged a capital gains tax and income tax increases for the highest earners to help pay for spending plans, and rejected the government plan to sell as much as 49 percent of four state-owned energy companies.
Key’s concerns about his next potential coalition was illustrated by the meeting with Banks, who is standing in the Auckland constituency of Epsom. After the discussion, Key told reporters he “wouldn’t be unhappy” if voters in Epsom backed Banks rather than the National contender.
ACT had 0.7 percent support in today’s opinion poll and needs to win Epsom to get into parliament.
The tape of Key’s meeting contains adverse comments about ACT leader Don Brash and elderly supporters of the New Zealand First Party, according to the website of TV3 News. The station cited a speech by Winston Peters, the leader of New Zealand First, which has supported governments led by both National and Labour in the past.
Support for New Zealand First rose 1.2 percentage points to 4 percent in today’s poll. Under New Zealand’s electoral system all parties winning more than 5 percent of the vote will win seats in parliament.
For news and related information: Stories on New Zealand elections: TNI NZ ELECT <GO> Reports on John Key: NSE JOHN KEY ZEALAND <GO> Most read New Zealand stories: MNI NZ BN <GO>
--Editors: Tracy Withers, Ed Johnson
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