September 24, 2017 / 8:30 AM / a year ago

Factbox: New Zealand First politician Winston Peters, set to decide New Zealand's next government

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Winston Peters - a colourful, populist figure who rails against immigration - is poised to determine New Zealand’s next government after a hotly contested election left neither major party with enough seats in Parliament govern on its own.

New Zealand First party Leader Winston Peters reacts as he speaks during an event held ahead of the national election at the Te Papa Museum in Wellington, New Zealand August 23, 2017. REUTERS/Ross Setford/Files

Below are some facts about New Zealand First leader Winston Peters:

* Peters was born in the far north New Zealand town of Whangarei in 1945 into a Scottish-Māori family.

* Peters studied law at Auckland University, where he was the captain of the Auckland Māori Rugby team. He later worked for a commercial law firm before setting up his own legal practice.

* Peters got his start in Parliament in 1978 as an MP for the National Party after winning a High Court case that overturned the election night result which showed his rival in the lead.

* Peters began sparring with his National Party caucus in the late 1980s and was sacked by then-Prime Minister Jim Bolger in 1991.

* In 1993, Peters set up the New Zealand First Party and won a seat in Parliament.

* Peters’ New Zealand First was cast as kingmaker for the first time after the 1996 election, the country’s first under the German-style proportionate representation system that favours smaller parties. He famously eschewed negotiation talks the day after the election to go fishing.

* Despite expectations he would back Labour, Peters eventually threw his support behind National and became the country’s deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer.

* The coalition collapsed after Peters was sacked from the National Party-led Cabinet in 1998.

* Peters later served as foreign minister under Helen Clark’s Labour Party-led government in 2005, during which time he became among a handful of Western politicians to visit North Korea.

* Despite holding the balance of power for a third time after Saturday’s election, Peters did suffer a blow losing his seat representing his home constituency, Northland, to National.

* Peters regularly espouses nationalist views that he says reflect what regular New Zealanders think, but that many have criticized as xenophobic.

* In 2005, Peters blamed Asian immigration for “imported criminal activity”. Last year, he described a Chinese company taking a majority ownership in a small New Zealand dairy processor as “lunacy”, while he called dairy giant Fonterra’s decision to send cows to China “economic treason”.

* Peters’ policies have consistently centred around tight controls on immigration and foreign investment, as well as reducing taxation. He also advocates boosting welfare spending for the elderly, a key source of the party’s support.

Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Lincoln Feast

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