National Party leads in New Zealand polls; NZ First still likely kingmaker

 23 Sep 2017 - 13:04

National Party leads in New Zealand polls; NZ First still likely kingmaker
Prime Minister Bill English (2nd-L) and his wife Mary (C) pose with their children (L-R) Bartholomew, Luke, Rory, Tom, Maria and Xavier as New Zealand go to the polls for the general election, in Auckland on September 23, 2017. AFP / MICHAEL BRADLEY

By Charlotte Greenfield | Reuters

WELLINGTON: Votes cast for New Zealand's ruling National Party hit 46.5 percent on Saturday evening with 70 percent of results counted, putting the centre-right party in the lead as it vyes for a fourth term in government, according to the Electoral Commission.

Centre-left Labour accounted for 35.5 percent and its possible coalition partner, the Green Party had 5.9 percent of the vote.

Still, the National Party would likely need the populist New Zealand First Party, which had 7.4 percent of the vote, to form a government.

A complete preliminary count was expected by around 2330 local time, but the final result, which would also include ballots cast by New Zealanders overseas, would not be released until Oct. 7.