New Zealand's ruling Nationals win most votes, NZ First Party kingmaker

New Zealand's ruling Nationals win most votes, NZ First Party kingmaker

New Zealand's cliffhanger election ended in a stalemate Saturday, leaving maverick populist Winston Peters of the New Zealand First (NZF) party to decide whether conservative Prime Minister Bill English or his youthful challenger Jacinda Ardern forms government.

NZ First is now at 7.5% and Peters, familiar with his role as king-maker in New Zealand elections, has indicated he will be weighing his options before making a decision on which party he will support into government.

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English speaks to supporters during an election night event in Auckland, New Zealand, September 23, 2017.

Labour's Jacinda Ardern was vying to defeat Prime Minister Bill English in Saturday's NZ election.

He also wants to change the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's mandate so it targets the country's high exchange rate, rather than just inflation.

The Labor Party with its ally Green Party of 5.8 percent votes or seven seats in the congress would just make enough seats to form a government if they can successfully get the New Zealand First Party on board.

He pointed out that National outpolled Labour and the Greens combined, saying voters had shown a clear preference for the centre-right party. "In the next few days we will begin discussions with New Zealand First on finding common ground and form. a strong and stable government for all New Zealanders".

But a surprise decision by then-Labour leader Andrew Little to stand aside at the start of the campaign made room for Ardern, 37, a three-term member of Parliament.

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Opinion polls leading up to the vote had been volatile with two recent ones giving National a near 10 point lead over Labour.

"It's possible", Bramwell said, that the Labour Party could gain power in a scenario where the party aligns with the Greens and gains the support of New Zealand First.

But her party's immediate future is no longer in her hands.

"I haven't done as well for [our voters] as I would have liked", she told the crowd, who protested back loudly.

"This has been an incredibly engaging and colorful campaign for New Zealanders and that isn't going to be over at midnight", said Bryce Edwards, an analyst at Wellington-based Critical Politics. That will likely have implications for the New Zealand dollar, the world's 11th most-traded currency in 2016.

More than 986,000 ballots have already been cast, accounting for nearly a third of the 3.2 million New Zealanders on the electoral rolls.

"Special votes", which include ballots from New Zealanders overseas and those who vote outside their home constituencies, will be released on October 7.

Voter engagement was high, with more than 800,000 taking advantage of early voting by Thursday, nearly double the number who had done so at an equivalent point in the last election.

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