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Key pushes for four-year terms

Wednesday 6 Feb 2013 6:19 p.m.

The Prime Minister is using his spotlight at Waitangi to push the idea of a fixed four-year term for the Government, and he's got support from his political opponents.

The crowds at Waitangi are a good sounding board for politicians, so John Key's using the event to push the boat out on this pet project of his – extending the Government's reign to four years, with a fixed date.

“I think it makes a lot more sense to know when the date is and it makes a lot more sense to have it for four years,” he says.

But Mr Key would need either 75 percent support from MPs or the majority in a referendum.

Governments have tried twice before to extend the term, but both attempts bombed.

In 1967, 68 percent of people opted to stick with three years. In 1990 it was up 1 percent to 69.

But Mr Key may have more luck lining up MPs.

Opposition leader David Shearer says he agrees with the idea.

“In many ways it's a very short period of time,” he says. “It's too long in opposition I have to say!”

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples seems in favour.

“That’s probably a good idea too. You just seem to get started and bang, it’s election time,” he says.

And Greens co-leader Metiria Turei says she thinks the public would support the move.

“Most of the public agree it's better for governments to have more time to implement policy rather than going from election to election.”

However Mana leader Hone Harawira isn’t convinced.

“As long as I’m not in Government I think it's a ratshit idea,” he says.

Australian terms can be no longer than three years. In the United States, presidential elections are held every four years, and it's the same for Canada’s parliament.

French presidents enjoy a five-year term, and in the United Kingdom the election date can be held at any time within five years.

Recommendations for or against a four-year term will be made by the end of this year when a constitutional review is completed.

But any change would be slow, and not possible before the next election.

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