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PM Stirs Early Election Speculation

Prime Minister Helen Clark kept speculation of an early election in the air at yesterday’s post-Cabinet press conference, with ambiguous replies to reporters’ questions apparently designed to keep commentators guessing.

"Depends on when the election is," was her reply when asked whether the Government would to appoint a new Reserve Bank Governor before the election.

She then outlined a full legislative programme the Government intended to get on with, along with the budget and overseas trips, before contemplating an election.

“Don’t hold your breath,” she said.

There have been rumours of Labour calling a July or August election, to capitalise on its sky-high poll ratings. The election is due in October or November.

Received wisdom has it that only Labour would benefit from going to the polls early. Despite revelling in the nonsensical status of the Alliance, and the damage it is doing the Government, the abysmally polling National Party needs all the electioneering time it can get. Conversely, the longer Labour remains in shaky coalition with the fractured Alliance, the more damage its credibility would sustain.

However, the police investigation hanging over the Prime Minister’s alleged art-fraud remains a barrier to an early poll. ACT Leader Richard Prebble says there will be no election while the investigation continues. “It wouldn't look good to have the PM in court during an election campaign,” he wrote in this week’s Letter from Wellington.

Meanwhile, the complainant’s identity was revealed after his wife called talkback radio, and her voice was recognised. The wife of Wellington anaesthetist Graham Sharpe said he made the complaint because of the Prime Minister’s arrogant handling of the matter.

Miss Clark dismissed the whole affair as “trivial” at the Monday press conference.

"Both my lawyers are absolutely confident no offence whatsoever has been committed. I am leaving it to them and I am getting on with running the country."

BACKGROUND LINKS:
- Bill English - Plain English - 10 May 2002
- Jim Anderton - Keeping The Waka Stable
- Stephen Franks - Labour Wants Political Police
- Richard Prebble - Letter from Wellington
- Gerry Brownlee - PM Should Sack Alliance MPs In Cabinet

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