(Reuters) - New Zealanders head to the polls next month in an election that looks likely to bring back the kind of coalition government the country has known in recent decades, as neither of two main parties is on track to win a majority.
Here are the key parties and potential combinations that may emerge from the Oct. 14 general election.
LIKELY BEDFELLOWS: LABOUR AND GREENS
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins has headed the Labour Party since Jacinda Ardern abruptly resigned in January. She led the centre-left party to a landslide victory in 2020, forming the only single-party government since proportional representation was introduced in 1996.
But even before Hipkins took over, Labour's fortunes had started to shift, as swing voters complained the party had taken on too many minority causes at the expense of middle-class New Zealanders struggling with rising costs of living.
Hipkins, 44, has steered the party toward the centre, saying its focus is on "bread and butter issues". But with Labour trailing the centre-right National Party 28%-39% in the latest opinion poll, it looks unlikely Hipkins can hold onto power alone.
Labour has previously governed with the support of the minority Green Party. While not formally in coalition now, the Greens agreed to cooperate with Labour after the 2020 election, with one of their members becoming minister for climate change.
LEADING CONTENDERS: NATIONAL + ACT NEW ZEALAND
National, on track to be the largest party, according to polling, might be able to form a government with ACT New Zealand. The right-wing party, however, has said it would not necessarily join National in a coalition but instead provide support case by case.
Christopher Luxon, 53, the former Air New Zealand chief who leads National, has built voter support for the party even as he personally trails Hipkins in popularity.
Winston Peters and his populist New Zealand First party are campaigning with slogans such as "Let’s take the country back." The 78-year-old, who joined the 2017 coalition that brought Ardern to power, has vowed not to put Labour in government again, while Labour has ruled out working with New Zealand First.
Te Pati Maori focuses on Indigenous solutions for the country's Indigenous people. In the past it supported a National government, but Luxon has said he would not work with the Maori party.
(Reporting by Lucy Craymer; Editing by William Mallard)