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New Zealand elections: Nationalist party likely kingmaker after hung Parliament
24 September 2017, 12:29 | Colleen Roy
Minister Bill English attends an event at a restaurant in Hong Kong Thomson Reuters
Since she became leader seven weeks ago, Ardern's popularity has carried Labour from 24 per cent in polls to a 36 per cent election result, leaving the party with the thinnest of hopes to form a government - if it can coax Winston Peters' NZ First party to join a Greens-Labour coalition over one with National.
Meanwhile, Germans will vote on Sunday to determine whether Chancellor Angela Merkel will receive a fourth term in office.
"The voters have spoken and now we have the responsibility of working to give New Zealand a strong and stable government", he said.
"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.
Mr English revelled in his party's success, talking up the size of its vote, while also having kind words for his main opponent Jacinda Ardern and Labour.
"The most likely scenario is we are going to have to wait two weeks when the final verdict is in from the Electoral Commission because it is just going to be so close", he said.
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.
New Zealand has a proportional voting system in its general elections.
Ms Ardern appeared deflated addressing the party faithful after the vote, saying she had given her all and apologising for not achieving enough.
Veteran New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has been minister under both major parties and has not said which party he would favour as a coalition partner.
In her own speech to supporters, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern admitted she had not done as well as she would have liked. The 37-year-old was greeted like a rock star at large rallies and has generated plenty of excitement among her fans.
Mr English, 55, has highlighted his experience and promised tax cuts.
In the past, he has raised concerns about New Zealand becoming an "Asian colony" and warned about migrants taking jobs from locals. 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.
"Only time will tell if this election will be any different, but I think if they turn out, that will really determine whether there's a change of government".
"Certainly it's been somewhat frustrating dealing with their negative campaign", Ardern said.
English and Ardern were expected to maintain fiscal prudence but will probably differ on monetary policy, trade and immigration.
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. But he said he was surprised at how much he enjoyed all the handshaking.
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