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New Zealand - Government and Economy

The government of New Zealand is a democratic elected parliament and is very similar to the system which is run in the UK. The head of state of New Zealand is the British monarch who has a governor-general in place in the country, which is run on a day to day basis by a Prime Minister. The Prime Minister oversees a cabinet which is made up from elected representatives from the party with the overall majority.

There is no formal constitution in New Zealand but there are a number of documents upon which the unwritten constitution is based, such as the Treaty of Waitangi. An act of parliament in 1852 established the parliamentary system which was to be used and has since been modified slightly. New Zealand has three branches of government. These are the Executive branch which consists of the monarch and the cabinet, the legislature which consists of the remaining members of parliament and the judiciary, which is the courts and the legal system.

Even though Queen Elizabeth II is monarch of New Zealand, she is referred to in the country as the Queen of New Zealand, not as Queen of England or the UK. Much of her role in the country is undertaken by the governor general and he/she is appointed by the Queen in consultation with the Prime Minister. This is very much a symbolic role as the decisions for the future of the country are taken by the Prime Minister and the government. If need be, the Governor-General has the power to dismiss the Prime Minister and dissolve Parliament on behalf of the Queen.

Elections are held in New Zealand every 3 years. In 2008 the National Party won the election and ended a long reign by the Labour Party. Other political parties in New Zealand include the ACT Party, the United Future Party, the Maori Party, the Green Party and the Progressive Party. All those who are aged 18 and over are able to vote and all New Zealand citizens and permanent residents have the right to vote. Those who have been in the country for a minimum of a year without leaving for any reason can also vote in elections.

The Parliament is known as the House of Representatives. Members are elected via a system of proportional representation known as mixed member proportional, which consists of both a party list system and the first past the post system. The House of Representatives consists of 120 members but overhangs and underhangs are taken into consideration and this number may vary. There are some seats which are reserved for Maori members, although Maoris are able to run for parliament in other constituencies too.

Each area in New Zealand also has local government. Local government is given power by the central government but many major services are still overseen by central government such as education and policing. There are 16 regions and 73 territorial authorities which have their own elected councils. The public is able to choose which voting system that they want in order to elect local council officials.

The National Party and the Labour Party are the two main parties in the country and have been since the 1930s. New Zealand has been one of the most forward thinking countries with regards to women in politics, being the first to allow women the vote in the 1890s and between March 2005 and August 2006 all the highest offices in the land were occupied by women, from the Queen to the Chief Justice.

The New Zealand economy has always relied a great deal on agriculture and international trade has always been very important. Trade in recent years has been strong with Australia, the UK and other European nations, the US and several Asian countries. Tourism is a strong part of the economy but industries such as manufacturing have only been on a very small scale. From 2000, the economy of New Zealand grew each year until 2007 by around 3.5% and inflation was an average of 2.6%. In 2008 New Zealand was affected by the global economic problems and interest rates rose while agricultural output fell. The government and the Reserve Bank implemented a series of measures designed to counteract the problems. The economy began to grow once again towards the end of 2009 and inflation dropped to 2% after a period at a much higher level.

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