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Early Election Likely

ACT leader Richard Prebble at the Auckland launch today of ACT's new book, `Old Values - New Ideas', said he believes an early election is now possible.

"The news that Phillida Bunkle and Kevin Campbell have not signed up to join Jim Anderton's new party, changes everything. This means Mr Anderton has not got a majority of the Alliance MPs' support - it's actually a five-all split.

"While it suits Lailla Harre and the real Alliance MPs to support the government today, they are looking for an issue to differentiate themselves from Mr Anderton and from Labour.

"Even though Labour in election year is trying to close down issues, no one knows when an issue like September 11 will occur. The first test for the government will be in May, on the Budget.

"As it happens, the issues ACT MPs are writing about in the new book could trigger the split. Rodney Hide writes about free trade, Ken Shirley about the Kyoto Treaty, Donna Awatere Huata about school choice, and Muriel Newman about welfare reform. I have written about the McLeod tax review and the need for lower taxes then Australia, and lower compliance costs. Any one of these issues could split the coalition.

"While Winston Peters is keen to provide Labour with extra votes, the thought of Mr Peters holding the balance of power scares Labour. Mr Peters cannot help but abuse the position. The Green Party strategy is to look for issues to distinguish themselves from the Alliance, to hope to pick up disillusioned Alliance voters. It is a volatile mixture that could explode at any time.

"ACT has decided to go into election mode. We have decided to extend our Zero Tolerance for Crime campaign which is a springboard for ACT's core policy of more personal responsibility being needed in society.

"While Labour does not want an early election because it raises questions about the ability of the Centre-Left to form a stable government, Labour is preparing. Labour has already selected its list candidates, and picked most of its constituency candidates.

"The ACT Party has selected candidates for most of our key seats and we have just sent to our committee 90 percent of our election policy for formal endorsement. While the Alliance is probably the least prepared of any party, when you have nothing to lose, people do desperate things.

Yesterday, I thought there was just a 15 percent chance of an early election. Now I put the possibility at 40 percent. MPs like winter elections like Napoleon liked the Russian snow, but it is now a real possibility," Mr Prebble said.

Ends

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