WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- Prime Minister Mike Moore conceded defeat yesterday as the conservative National Party appeared headed for a landslide victory in parliamentary elections, ending six years of Labor rule.
National Party leader Jim Bolger, who seeks better relations with the United States, was expected to assume a three-year term as the country's new prime minister.
Mr. Moore, whose center-left party suffered from a faltering economy, phoned Mr. Bolger less than 2 1/2 hours after the polls closed.
"I wish you well," he told a beaming Mr. Bolger, the 54-year-old son of Irish immigrant farmers. "You worked hard for it."
Final, unofficial results indicated National was likely to win 68 seats in the 97-member Parliament to 28 for Labor and one for New Labor. A handful of seats were close enough that they still could be decided by absentee ballots. Several Cabinet ministers were among the Labor casualties.
National polled 49 percent of the vote to 35 percent for Labor. The Green Party, a relatively new political group that as part of its policy has no official leader, was third with 7 percent, with 5 percent for New Labor.
Of the 2,158,966 registered voters, 1,636,184 -- 76 percent -- cast ballots.
Labor had a 56-40 majority in the outgoing Parliament. The New Labor Party held the remaining seat.
Both the Nationals and Labor pledge to continue barring nuclear-powered ships and ships with nuclear weapons from making port calls, a policy that has angered U.S. officials.
But the National Party seeks some sort of reconciliation with Washington, and Mr. Bolger was welcomed in the U.S. capital at a time when other top New Zealand officials were not.
Mr. Moore took over as prime minister two months ago when Geoffrey Palmer resigned with polls indicating Labor trailing by 21 points and heading for a landslide loss.
Mr. Moore, 41, made a desperate last-minute bid Friday for support from environmentalists.
In a country where pride in the environment runs high, Mr. Moore said any vote for the small Green Party actually would be a vote for the Nationals, whom he tried to paint as anti-conservationist.
Unemployment, which is running at 7.9 percent, the highest level since World War II, had topped voter concerns in this South Pacific island nation of 3.5 million people.
Another issue was the country's policy against nuclear vessels and weapons, which was initiated in 1984 under Labor Prime Minister David Lange and kept U.S. warships from making port calls because the Pentagon refuses to divulge whether any are carrying nuclear weapons.
In response to the policy, the United States in 1986 cut high-level contacts with New Zealand and dropped the country from the ANZUS military alliance, which also includes Australia.