New Zealand is preparing for its first federal election in 1876 with an all-out attack on the opposition Labor Party.
The first ballot will take place on Sunday, when voters will be asked to choose between a new prime minister and a veteran leader.
The election is a major political blow to the ruling National Party, which has dominated the country for decades.
A coalition of conservative parties has ruled the country since the 1970s, but the last major election was in 2008.
Prime Minister Bill English, who has been in office for nearly 40 years, faces an uphill battle to retain his job.
In New Zealand, there are only two parties that can form a government at any given time: the Greens and Labour.
The Greens are backed by the New Zealand First party, which is a coalition of smaller parties.
Mr English has been battling a string of corruption scandals and the resignation of several cabinet ministers, including a former health minister.
His political opponents have accused him of being too close to the Chinese government.
“New Zealanders will vote for a leader who will represent them and give them a choice of two choices,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
“It’s the first election that we have in a generation, and it’s the last election that New Zealanders can be sure that we’ll have a government that represents them.”
The Labor Party, however, is the biggest party in Parliament and is supported by more than 70 per cent of New Zealand voters.
The party will be the main challenger to Mr English’s party, with the New Zealander facing off against former cabinet minister Tim Groser, who ran for parliament in 2015 but dropped out last week.
A former education minister, Mr Groser was the longest serving member of New Labour, and was replaced in 2015 by Bill English.
Mr Groserer has described Mr English as “unprepared” for the job.
“He is a seasoned politician who knows how to run a government, he’s got a lot of experience,” Mr Groscheer said.
The two main candidates for the prime ministership will be former prime minister John Key, who is widely expected to be the winner, and New Zealand Transport Minister Simon Bridges.
Mr Key was in the lead in polls, leading Mr Groscher by a margin of two percentage points in December.
He is expected to secure more support from New Zealand Labour voters, although he will need to win more than one-third of the vote to form a majority government.
Mr Bridges, a former Labour politician, is expected the winner in the polls, with his strong track record in transport and health.
But the election is seen as a potential test of Mr English and his leadership.
Mr England, a veteran of the Great Depression, has ruled New Zealand for the past four decades.
He has been prime minister for more than 40 years.
His government has reduced the size of the military and the number of police, and has reduced crime.
The country has seen a decline in violent crime and drug dealing, although there have been some high-profile murders.
It is not yet clear whether Mr English will be able to form an alliance with the opposition New Zealand Party, the country’s main opposition party, and which is backed by two-thirds of New Zealands voters.
Labor’s leader, Bill English has won the 2015 election, becoming the first New Zealand leader to win a general election since World War II.
Photo: Supplied The opposition National Party has made gains in recent years, but its support has dropped as New Zealand has become a wealthier nation and the population has grown.
Opposition Leader Bill English says his party will work hard to win the election.
“We will be focused on delivering the good things New Zealand people are going to enjoy,” Mr English said.
He added that New Zealanders will have “a choice between a prime minister who will put their trust in the people and a leader that will do what is best for New Zealand”.
Mr English is expected a strong candidate.
The main opposition New Zealanders are expected to back a candidate from the governing Labour Party.
Mr Bridge is a former transport minister who was replaced by former health secretary John Key.
Photo, left, Labour Party Leader Bill England, National Party leader Winston Peters, and Greens Party leader and candidate for the New England seat of New Plymouth Peter Dunne pose for a photo with the Queen at St James’s Palace in London, Britain, December 10, 2020.
Photo via REUTERS Mr English says he wants to build a “greater country” and that he will work for the country “as a citizen”.
“We have got to have a new government that can make decisions for us and be a leader of the country, but also as a citizen of this country,” he said.
Mr England says his campaign is not about the election, but about the country and about the people.
“I think that it’s important that we do