New Zealand election stalemate leaves maverick Peters as kingmaker

Neither of the major parties - National, led by the incumbent prime minister, Bill English, or Jacinda Ardern's Labour - secured enough seats to form a majority government in a frustrating poll on Saturday.

The poll showed support for the nationalist New Zealand First Party, a potential election kingmaker, dropped 1 point to 5 percent, right on the threshold a party needs to get a seat in parliament.

NZ First is now at 7.5% and Peters, familiar with his role as king-maker in New Zealand elections, has indicated he will be weighing his options before making a decision on which party he will support into government.

Prime Minister Bill English said, "I want to acknowledge the strong performance of [New Zealand First leader] Winston Peters and New Zealand First".

He has also promised to address some of New Zealand's most pressing social issues such as child poverty and a housing shortage.


Both parties are now courting the populist New Zealand First party, which won nine seats, to form a coalition.

In contrast, the 55-year-old Mr English was bullish about his chances of securing a fourth-term government for National, a feat that has not been achieved in New Zealand in more than 50 years. Galvanised support for the ailing party gave it a 20-point popularity boost to draw level with National.

But she says she realises they need the youth to turn out.

National leader Bill English said he would start talking to NZ First in the next few days about forming a new government.

"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. They won't change any crucial seats and National is extremely unlikely to go up.


"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.

English and Ardern were expected to maintain fiscal prudence but will probably differ on monetary policy, trade and immigration.

The official results of the election won't be released until October 7, when special votes - ballots cast overseas or by those who enrolled and voted at the same time, Bramwell said - are fully accounted for. Even if that happens, Bramwell said, "they may still have to wait for the special votes to be counted" before a final determination could be made. New Zealand First had "not all the cards but we do have the main cards", he added, saying he would not be rushed into giving any answers immediately.

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.



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