New Zealand Starts Counting Votes in Too-Close-To-Call Election

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With 61 seats required to govern, National won 58 and its sole remaining political ally, ACT secured one, according to the New Zealand Electoral Commission.

With no single party able to form a government alone, NZ First's 7.5 percent suggests Mr Peters will effectively decide the make-up of Parliament for the next three years.

He wrapped up his speech just as Labour leader Jacinda Ardern was leaving home to head to her campaign party.

New Zealand's conservative Prime Minister Bill English raced to a strong start in early election counting Saturday, September 23 although the figures still gave opposition leader Jacinda Ardern a realistic prospect of forming government.

Mr English, a career politician and a former finance minister, says he thinks a major accomplishment of his party is has been getting New Zealand onto "such a stable economic footing". "We respect the negotiation process".

In the marginal seat of Hutt South, National's Chris Bishop came from behind to beat Labour's Ginny Andersen.

"Hardly anyone talked about polls at the last election, and now polls have suddenly become a big deal, and caused the old Labour leader to step aside and have Jacinda Ardern take over".

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

"We hoped we could have done better and we'll do better than those polls are showing right now as they trend upwards". I haven't done as well for them as I would have liked.

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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.

Mr English then reached out to the man who will be pivotal in forming a National-led Government in the coming days.

"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.

"This party is a realistic, common-sense party, we don't like extremism", Peters said Saturday.

"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".

"It's all over, bar the special votes - but even they won't change the basic maths".

Mr English addressed thousands of jubilant National Party supporters at Sky City in Auckland, after his party claimed 46.1 percent of the provisional party vote in the 2017 Election. "So Winston Peters rules", said Bryce Edwards, analyst at Wellington-based Critical Politics.

"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.

A record 1.2 million ballots were cast before the day of the election, accounting for about a third of the 3.3 million New Zealanders enrolled to vote.