WELLINGTON (AFP) - A New Zealand national referendum has overwhelmingly called for a law change to give parents the right to smack their children, provisional figures showed Friday. Figures showed 87.6 percent of those who voted wanted a 2007 so-called anti-smacking law overturned, according to the preliminary results of the referendum. A total of 54 percent of the voting population took part in the referendum, the Electoral Commission said. Many people, including Prime Minister John Key and Opposition Leader Phil Goff, decided not to vote in the referendum, arguing its question was loaded or ambiguous. It asked: Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand? The result of the referendum is non-binding on the government and Key has said he supports the 2007 law and does not intend to change it unless he sees evidence it is not working. The director of the conservative organisation Family First, Bob McCoskrie, said following the vote that the government should act immediately to amend the law to allow light smacking. John Key cannot ignore this result, McCoskrie said. The attempt by politicians to dismiss the referendum as ambiguous and irrelevant has also been rebuked by the voters. The aim of the 2007 law was to curb New Zealands high rate of child abuse and stop people using parental discipline as a defence against assault charges. The law removed a provision which said parents could use reasonable force to discipline their children, but gave police the discretion not to prosecute trivial cases. Opponents of the law said it would lead to good parents being prosecuted. A 2003 UNICEF report said New Zealand had the third-worst rate of abuse and neglect of children in the OECD group of developed countries and Helen Clark, the prime minister at the time the law was passed, called the countrys child abuse record a stain on our international reputation.