WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND, AUG. 15 -- Prime Minister David Lange and his Labor Party won a second three-year term in parliamentary elections today, and Lange said his priorities would be social reform and cutting the nation's record-high unemployment.
Nearly complete returns gave Labor a 15-seat majority in the 97-member Parliament, the same edge it held in the last Parliament.
Lange is the first Labor Party leader to win a second consecutive term since the Walter Nash government of 1935-49.
Jim Bolger, leader of the opposition National Party, conceded defeat three hours after the polls closed.
Lange said that he was "enormously fulfilled" by the victory. "What a remarkable country, what a remarkable judgment," he cried to cheering supporters.
Lange, 45, gained international attention during his first term by banning nuclear-capable ships from New Zealand harbors.
In consequence, New Zealand was dropped from the three-way ANZUS alliance with the United States and Australia.
During his campaign, Lange did not emphasize the nuclear-free policy.
Instead, he pointed to his efforts to revitalize the economy through deregulation, an end to farm subsidies and a new sales tax.
With most of the votes counted, election officials said Labor won 56 seats and the National Party won 41. The small Democratic Party lost its two seats, including that of its leader, Neil Morrison.
Labor received 784,760 votes, or 46.41 percent, to 738,107 (44.59 percent) for the National Party.
The Democratic Party received 97,112 votes, or 5.87 percent. About 1.65 million of the 2.1 million eligible voters cast ballots, officials said.
Bolger, 52, had vowed to return New Zealand to ANZUS, cut government spending and do away with the sales tax.
"Congratulations, prime minister; I think you've got the numbers to carry the burden for the next three years," Bolger said in a telephone call to Lange that was carried live on national television.
Lange later said his second term's priorities will be to cut unemployment, now at a record 6.2 percent, and carry out social and educational reform.
Inflation is at a record high of 18.9 percent and interest rates stand at 21.5 percent. Lange acknowledged that his economic measures, such as liberalizing financial regulations and floating the national currency, had caused hardship but said things will get better if he is allowed to complete his program.
Lange made no mention today of the nuclear-free issue. However, he made it clear during the campaign that he stood firm in his opposition to allowing nuclear-capable ships into port. The United States said the ban made the 1952 ANZUS treaty unworkable.
Washington refuses to disclose which of its ships carry nuclear weapons.