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Greens co-leader in New Zealand resigns after admitting to welfare fraud

Metiria Turei revealed she wrongfully claimed welfare benefits to support her baby while studying for a law degree in the early 1990s.

Metiria Turei answers questions from reporters in Wellington today.
Metiria Turei answers questions from reporters in Wellington today.
Image: Nick Perry via PA Images

NEW ZEALAND’S POLITICAL landscape faced another shake up just six weeks before a general election, as the co-leader of the Green Party quit following her admission of welfare and electoral fraud.

The Greens upheaval came as the main opposition Labour Party received a significant boost a week after dumping Andrew Little in favour of the charismatic 37-year-old Jacinda Ardern.

Greens co-leader Metiria Turei resigned an hour before the release of an opinion poll showing a dramatic one-third slump in support for her party to 8.3%.

Turei had defied political and media pressure to resign for more than three weeks since she first revealed wrongfully claiming a benefit to help support her baby while studying for a law degree in the early 1990s.

The Labour Party, which has the Greens as a coalition partner, benefited from its own leadership shakeup rising nine points to 33.1%, while support for Ardern as potential prime minister jumped 17.6% to 26.3%, just behind incumbent Bill English on 27.7%.

English’s centre-right National Party, which leads the ruling coalition, remained the most popular party in the Newshub poll on a steady 44.4%.

Newshub The poll results from 31 July when the Greens were on 13%. Source: Newshub

New Zealand First overtook the Greens as the third most popular party on 9.2% and remained the likely kingmakers in a coalition government.

Turei’s admission, which she said was intended to highlight the plight of beneficiaries, at first boosted the Greens in the polls, but the tide turned when further instances of fraud emerged including her enrolment at a false address to vote for a friend in the 1993 election.

Turei had insisted as late as yesterday that she would stay as co-leader until the election, even if the Greens plummeted in the polls.

But as Newshub prepared to release its damning figures, the 47-year-old five-term MP stepped aside.

- © AFP, 2017

Read: Sexism row in New Zealand after party leader is told public has right to know her parenthood plans

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