Key re-elected prime minister of New Zealand


SYDNEY, Australia (JTA) — John Key, the son of a Jewish refugee who escaped Austria on the eve of the Holocaust, was re-elected prime minister of New Zealand.

Key’s conservative National Party defeated the opposition Labor Party Saturday to win a second term in a landslide. He likely will still require the support of several minor parties to form a government, although Key appears to have polled 60 seats in the 121-seat parliament.

Relations between Wellington and Jerusalem have largely been cordial since Key took office in 2008. His predecessor, Labor’s Helen Clark, had suspended high-level diplomatic relations with Israel for a year following a passport scandal involving two alleged Mossad agents in 2004.

Relations also have been aided by the reopening of Israel’s embassy in Wellington last year following its closure in 2002 due to cost-cutting measures.

Stephen Goodman, president of the New Zealand Jewish Council, congratulated the National Party, saying he hoped the government would "ensure that New Zealand remains a country where we, as Jews, are free to fully practice all aspects of our religion away from threats, dangers and discrimination."

The Jewish community almost clashed with the prime minister over a ban on ritual kosher slaughter, or shechitah in 2010, but it was averted on the eve of the case going before the courts after the government backed down.

Key’s late mother, Ruth Lazar, fled Austria in 1938. A refugee in Britain, she married an Englishman before immigrating to New Zealand in the 1950s.

Key’s father died when was 6; he and his two siblings grew up in government-funded housing. Before entering politics, Key became a millionaire, working in London as a currency trader with Merrill Lynch.

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