New Zealand sets elections for Sept. 20

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealanders will go to the polls Sept. 20 for a general election, Prime Minister John Key announced Monday.

Under the New Zealand system, the prime minister gets to choose the date for the election, which is held every three years.

Opinion polls indicate Key's conservative National Party remains the most popular single party and is well placed to win a third consecutive term.

However, New Zealand's proportional system dictates that political parties must typically find partner parties to form a majority. On that basis, a group of liberal parties, led by Labour and the Greens, hope to gather enough votes between them to topple Key.

The New Zealand economy has grown strongly over the past six months as the country recovers from the global economic downturn.

Key has enjoyed high personal approval ratings, although he has faced criticism for his party's program of asset sales. The government is completing the third stock market listing of a minority stake in an energy company.

Key says the program has helped reduce foreign debt and has increased spending on schools and roads. Opponents say the program is unnecessary, ideologically driven, and has resulted in the assets being sold for less than their worth.

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