Helen Clark, two-term prime minister, is the Labour Party's first-ever woman leader. Clark, 55, has led the nation since1999. She is seeking to become the first New Zealander since World War II to win three straight elections.
She opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq, but sent troops to help reconstruction there and in Afghanistan while holding firm to New Zealand's 20-year-old anti-nuclear policies.
Opponents accuse her of arrogance, pointing to two incidents - one dubbed "Speedgate" in which her motorcade roared through the country's South Island to catch a plane to a rugby match, and another in which she scolded an Air New Zealand pilot who criticized her for holding up his flight.
Don Brash, National Party leader, is a former central bank governor who entered the political arena less than three years ago.Brash, 64, wants to negotiate a free trade deal with the United States even if it means overturning the nation's 20-year-old anti-nuclear law that bans visits by nuclear warships, which would improve often-strained relations with Washington.
Brash says closer relations with Australia and the United States will be priorities, but also wants to build stonger ties with Asian trading partners. He also has announced a $2.8 billion package of tax cuts and pledged to cut waste from government spending, reduce bureaucracy and overhaul education, health, law and order and welfare policy, San Francisco Chronicle reports.