New Zealanders head to polls for neck-and-neck national vote

Voting has closed in New Zealand's general election on Saturday where pre-election polls indicated it was too close to call between the centre-right National Party of Prime Minister Bill English and the centre-left Labour Party of Jacinda Ardern.

The results secured 58 seats for National in parliament, and 45 for Labour.

National and Labour had been nearly neck and neck in opinion polls, with charismatic 37-year old Jacinda Ardern nearly single-handedly dragging Labour back into the race after taking over the party's leadership in August.

That means there is still a chance Prime Minister Bill English's main challenger, Labour's Jacinda Ardern, could get the top job.

New Zealand uses a German-style proportional representation system in which a party, or combination of parties, needs 61 of Parliament's 120 members - usually about 48 percent of the vote - to form a government.

"We gave it everything, and we got better and better", he said. For a brief, vertiginous moment, polls even showed Labour outgunning National, but that reversed in the closing weeks as National aggressively (and at times dishonestly) attacked Labour's policies.

She said she was willing to work with anyone who shared Labour's values.

"I simply can not predict at this point what decisions other leaders will make", she said.

Ardern is bidding to become New Zealand's youngest leader since 1856 and only the third woman to lead the South Pacific nation of 4.6 million people.

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The Green Party leader says both his party and NZ First "do have some things in common". The Green Party typically aligns with the liberal Labour Party.

Labour's memorandum of understanding with the Greens, who are at 5.8%, is not enough to put them ahead of National and the coalition will have to welcome Winston Peters' NZ First into the fold to govern. That will likely have implications for the New Zealand dollar, the world's 11th most-traded currency in 2016.

"We'll make a decision in the interests of all New Zealand and New Zealand First, that is the whole country, not ourselves in the party but in the national interest and that will take some time", he added.

She said Labour would continue to pursue and focus on the issues they had campaigned on - housing, health and education.

"I'm a very reasonable person but I don't sell myself or my principles out", he said this week.

She turned her flagging party's fortunes around in a matter of weeks but National, which has pinned its re-election bid on the economy's strong performance, has regained ground in recent opinion polls. The numbers could change after other votes, including overseas ballots, are counted.

She talked about contacting James Shaw.

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.

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