National leads in early NZ election count

By that count, which excludes special votes, National had 46.0 percent of the vote, with Labour on 35.8 percent and the Green Party on 5.9 percent.

Coalitions will form the next New Zealand government and New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has declared he holds the balance of responsibility to decide who.

There remained a remote chance that English's main challenger, Jacinda Ardern, could take the role.

It sounded more like a stump speech than one created to win Winston and influence New Zealand First or one that expressed commiserations for the three MPs who have lost seats, Mojo Mathers, Barry Coates and Denise Roche.

For English, who campaigned heavily on National's economic credentials after taking the party leadership previous year, the strong showing was a vindication after National crashed to its worst ever election result in 2002 under his first stint as leader.

But it sounded like a concession speech instead of someone who leads by far the biggest party in an alternative combination of parties to National.

"So many New Zealanders supported us. because through this campaign, we had the opportunity to share our challenging ideas about how to solve New Zealand's most pressing problems".

English was in the driving seat to win a fourth term until Ardern took over the Labour Party last month. Ms Ardern's centre-left Labour Party and its preferred partner the Greens were on 52, still needing another nine.

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She told supporters she had called National leader Bill English to discuss the result, conceding neither of them would determine the election outcome.

"We've run such an extraordinary campaign and we've had such support, it would be very hard for me to be depressed", he said.

Winston Peters, the party chief of the New Zealand First Party, however, refused to say which party he would side with.

With the campaign over, who will be the next prime minister of New Zealand could come down to the quirks of the MMP [mixed member proportional voting] electoral system.

There were 3.2 million New Zealanders registered to vote in the election, with a record 1.2 million of them opting to cast ballots early.

"Special votes", which include ballots from New Zealanders overseas and those who vote outside their home constituencies, will be released on October 7. Ardern said she wants to build thousands of affordable homes to combat runaway house prices, spend more money on health care and education, and clean up polluted waterways.

Labour's Ardern was vying to become New Zealand's youngest leader since 1856.

Peters, a political veteran whose fiery rhetoric has seen him compared to US President Donald Trump, knows how to extract the most from coalition negotiations.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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