NZ opposition leader Jacinda Ardern admits defeat

Laura Christensen
September 24, 2017

In last few hours, nearly all votes have been counted and trends show that the National party was leading with 46 per cent, while support for Labour was 35.8 per cent, the Election Commission said in a statement.

New Zealand First Party, led by controversial anti-immigration figure Winston Peters, had a 7.5% vote share.

New Zealand's conservative Prime Minister Bill English raced to a strong start in early election counting Saturday, September 23 although the figures still gave opposition leader Jacinda Ardern a realistic prospect of forming government.

There remained a remote chance that English's main challenger, Jacinda Ardern, could take the role.

Under New Zealand's proportional voting system, large parties typically must form alliances with smaller ones in order to govern. The centre-right governing party, led by 55-year-old Bill English, had been in power for nearly a decade.

But it sounded like a concession speech instead of someone who leads by far the biggest party in an alternative combination of parties to National.

"There's still a lot in play at the moment", she said.

Votes for the Green Party, which has a working agreement with Labour, reached 5.8 per cent.

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Speaking to the National Party's supporters at Sky City in Auckland, he welcomed the expression of confidence from voters, and said he would talk to Mr Peters soon, but they did not need to rush the process.

"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".

"I wish I could answer your question, honestly I wish I could because I've had it asked of me 1,000 times in the last five weeks", he told Radio New Zealand this week.

At stake for both candidates was how to capitalize on New Zealand's growing economy.

Ms Ardern has been a game-shifter for the New Zealand Labour Party, appealing to the "young and urban", according to recently resigned leader of the party, Andrew Little.

Mr English addressed thousands of jubilant National Party supporters at Sky City in Auckland, after his party claimed 46.1 percent of the provisional party vote in the 2017 Election.

"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. Her policy platform included free tertiary education, cleaning up polluted waterways, and curbing immigration to reduce pressure on housing and infrastructure.

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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