News & Current Affairs

September 12, 2008

New Zealand leader calls election

New Zealand leader calls election

PM Helen Clark

PM Helen Clark may hope that a lengthy campaign could help her win

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has called a general election for 8 November, aiming to win a fourth term in office.

However, Ms Clark’s Labor Party has trailed the opposition National Party in opinion polls for the past year.

Economic woes and a scandal-hit foreign minister have given the opposition its best chance of power in a decade.

But the country’s aversion to the Iraq war and strong anti-nuclear stance are unlikely to change, whoever wins.

Ms Clark, 58, a successful campaigner, told a news conference on Friday that the election would be about trust.

“It is about which leader and which major party we New Zealanders trust our families’ and country’s future with,” said the prime minister.

“What I see is that as the election nears people are focusing very much on what the real choice is. And at that point it comes down to what matters most to our families and our communities,” she said.

The latest date on which elections could have been set was 15 November, and some analysts have suggested Ms Clark’s choice of date will give her time to claw back support.

Correspondents say the nation’s economy is expected to be a key issue in election. A recent cut in interest rates may help Labour, and promised tax cuts are due to take effect in October.

Public opinion polls show the Labor Party trailing the main opposition National Party by at least 6.5 percentage points – an improvement on a 16-point gap earlier in the year.

Party problems

New Zealand’s voting system is mixed-member proportional representation, which shares power with smaller parties, in a 121-seat single-house parliament.

Ms Clark’s government has led a minority parliament in recent years, relying on parties such as United Future and New Zealand First for support.

New Zealand First leader, Winston Peters, has been her foreign minister but stepped down on 29 August as he is now under investigation for donations allegedly made to his party by wealthy business figures.

Ms Clark has distanced herself from Mr Peters in recent weeks.

Just before the election announcement, Ms Clark’s government passed a promised major piece of legislation to set up an emissions trading scheme.

Parliament will be dissolved on 3 October and nomination day is 14 October, allowing for a five-week campaign period.

“I do believe the future of New Zealand is at stake,” Ms Clark said.

“I believe that Labor has shown through its record in office that we can be trusted with the future of New Zealand.”

She said her Labor Party was “ambitious” for New Zealand, whereas the opposition party was “ambiguous”.

National leader John Key did not immediately comment.

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September 8, 2008

Silent movie star Page dies at 98

Silent movie star Page dies at 98

Anita Page

Anita Page was a key figure as the silent movie era ended

Veteran actress Anita Page, whose career dated back to the silent movie era, has died aged 98 in Los Angeles.

Page counted Buster Keaton, Lon Chaney and Joan Crawford among her co-stars during an 84-year career which saw her start out as an extra in 1924.

Her big break came in 1928 when she starred alongside Crawford in Our Dancing Daughters.

More recently, she had completed a cameo role in forthcoming horror movie Frankenstein Rising.

Page died in her sleep at home on Saturday morning, friend Randal Malone told the Associated Press news agency.

Her daughter, Linda Sterne, said her mother had been good friends with Marion Davies and Jean Harlow, and for a period in the 1930s had lived as a guest in a California castle owned by newspaper magnate William Hearst.

“She was the best mother I could have,” Sterne said. “She was wonderful.”

Page starred alongside Chaney in 1928’s While The City Sleeps, while the following years she co-starred in musical The Broadway Melody, the first talkie to win a best picture Oscar.

Her other work included two of Keaton’s sound films: Free and Easy in 1930, and the following year’s Sidewalks of New York.

She also starred alongside Walter Huston in 1932’s Night Court, and The Easiest Way, in which Clark Gable had a small role.

But Page stopped acting when she fell in love with US Navy aviator Herschel House. The couple married in 1936, six weeks after they met, and she settled down to life as an officer’s wife, hosting many parties at their home in San Diego Bay.

After House died in 1991, Page returned to acting, starring in suspense thriller Sunset After Dark in 1994.

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