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New Zealanders head to polls for national vote

New Zealanders head to polls for national vote”

New Zealanders go to the polls tomorrow in a cliffhanger election that sees conservative Prime Minister Bill English battling a challenge from young rival Jacinda Ardern.

In 1996, he helped instal a National-led government in return for being made deputy prime minister, then in 2005 he joined a Labour coalition after being given the job of foreign minister.

The two minor parties, which could be crucial for possible coalitions, the New Zealand First, polled 6.6 per cent, and the Green Party, 7.2 per cent, which places them above the 5 per cent required to be able to hold a seat in parliament, which elects the government.

But Mr English and his National Party looked set to be in the driving seat until Ms Ardern, 37, became opposition leader last month.

"It's tight", Ardern, whose popularity prompted media to coin the term "Jacindamania", said on Friday, a day when she also attended her grandmother's funeral.

As of September 21, approximately 985,530 voters had taken advantage of the country's advance voting option, compared to 717,597 in the 2014 general election.

The 55-year-old English has run a more low-key campaign, highlighting his experience and the economic growth the country has enjoyed.

Given New Zealand's proportional representation system, it could take weeks to determine the composition of the new government.

Opinion polls show either English's conservative National Party or Ardern's centre-left Labour could be in a position to form a government late Saturday.

If that happens, populist anti-immigration campaigner Winston Peters New Zealand First party looms as a potential kingmaker.



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