New Zealand’s ruling National Party enjoyed a wide lead over the Labour Party with 70 per cent of results counted in the country’s general election on Saturday after the most hotly contested race in recent history, reports Reuters.
Votes cast for New Zealand’s ruling National Party reached 46.5 per cent, while support for the opposition Labour Party was 35.5 per cent, according to the Electoral Commission.
The nationalist New Zealand First Party had 7.4 per cent of the vote so far, tipping it as a likely kingmaker in the German-style proportional representation system.
Votes for the Green Party, which has a working agreement with Labour, reached 5.9 per cent, above the 5 per cent threshold for parliamentary representation. Preliminary results are due at 1130 GMT.
National and the Labour Party had been neck and neck in the polls, after the charismatic Jacinda Ardern almost single-handedly changed the chances of the Labour Party after taking over its leadership in August. But two recent polls have put Bill English’s National Party with a near 10 point lead, after nearly a decade in government.
“I think probably we would have hoped to do a bit better, but it’s still early days,” senior Labour member of parliament Phil Twyford said as votes were tallied.
Photos published by Fairfax media showed Ardern watching intently as the results trickled in from her Auckland living room. She was due to arrive at Labour’s central Auckland headquarters later in the evening.
After a tight race which, which saw Ardern’s popularity coin the term “Jacindamania” in local media, National was reluctant to claim victory this early on.
Steven Joyce, National’s campaign manager and current finance minister, said that it was too early to tell the final result, especially given the historic numbers of advance votes.
“I’m nervous as a kitten on election night,” Joyce said.
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. In past elections, advanced votes were indicative of final results.