Triumph for New Zealand Greens

NEW ZEALAND'S Green Party, which campaigned for the legalisation of cannabis and a ban on trials of genetically modified crops in last month's general election, will hold the balance of power in parliament after final votes counted yesterday unexpectedly gave it six MPs.

The so-called "special votes" - which include absentee votes and those of people who registered late - robbed the new centre-left government of the prime minister elect, Helen Clark, of an absolute majority in the parliament in the capital, Wellington, leaving it with 60 of the 120 seats. Yesterday's count gave Jeanette Fitzsimons, co-leader of the Greens, the rural electorate of Coromandel, a stronghold of the conservative National Party for half a century.

New Zealand's system of proportional representation, introduced in 1996, means that Ms Fitzsimons will take five other MPs to Wellington with her. They include Nandor Tanczos, a Rastafarian with thigh-length dreadlocks who owns a chain of hemp product shops and campaigned on the slogan: "Our first Rasta in Parliament. Put the Dread in the House." Mr Tanczos, 33, who is of Hungarian descent, plans to have a hemp suit made for his first official day as a politician.

As the Greens celebrated last night by drinking organic wine on the steps of parliament, Rod Donald, the other co-leader, toasted the victory, declaring: "This one's for Cinderella - she's gatecrashed the ball." A less enthusiastic reaction can be expected from Ms Clark, leader of the Labour Party, and her deputy, Jim Anderton, who heads the left-wing Alliance. After 10 days of talks, the two have published a document detailing how their parties will govern together in coalition. The new government is to be sworn in on Friday.

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