Second term Photograph:( Reuters )
Jacinda Ardern is hoping to steer her left-of-center government to victory riding on her handling of the coronavirus pandemic in New Zealand
Polling booths opened in New Zealand as the voters came out to choose the next Prime Minister. Incumbent Jacinda Ardern is looking to consolidate her hold on the government by winning another term while Conservatives led by Judith Collins is seeking to unseat her. The polling booths opened at 2000 GMT on Friday (1:30 am, Saturday by IST).
Jacinda Ardern is hoping to steer her left-of-center government to victory riding on her handling of the coronavirus pandemic in New Zealand. The elections were due to be held on September 19 but were delayed by coronavirus outbreak in Auckland that has now been contained.
New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world where wearing mask is not mandatory as the pandemic has been contained. Jacinda Ardern has won global praise for her handling of the outbreak. Her challenger Judith Collins has positioned herself as a candidate better suited to handle the financial difficulties New Zealand is likely to encounter.
Restrictions are in place on what news media can report about the race until polls close at 7 p.m. (0600 GMT), after which the Electoral Commission is expected to begin releasing preliminary results.
The Electoral Commission said on Saturday that almost 2 million ballots had already been cast as of Friday, accounting for more than half of the roughly 3.5 million New Zealanders on the electoral rolls.
Special votes, including ballots from New Zealanders overseas and those who vote outside their home constituencies, will only be released on Nov. 6.
This means that result of the election may be declared as early as Saturday night.
Voters will also cast ballots in two referendums, one on legalising recreational cannabis and the other on legalising euthanasia, although the results of those votes will not be known until October 30.
New Zealand switched to a mixed member proportional system in 1996 in which a party or coalition needs 61 of Parliament's 120 seats - usually about 48% of the vote - to form a government.
This means minor parties often play an influential role in determining which major party governs.
(With agency inputs)