New Zealand polls open as record numbers of voters cast ballots in advance

New Zealand polls open as record numbers of voters cast ballots in advance

New Zealand polls open as record numbers of voters cast ballots in advance

Updated 23 September 2017, 11:10 AEST

New Zealand goes to the polls to choose the make-up of its 52nd Parliament, in a close-run race between the governing National Party and the opposition Labour Party.

New Zealand goes to the polls to choose the make-up of its 52nd Parliament today, in a close-run race between the governing National Party and the opposition Labour Party.

Key points:

  • Voting will end at 7:00pm (local time)
  • Labour Party, led by Jacinda Ardern, is vying against incumbent National
  • Governing party, led by Bill English, has been in power for almost a decade

Doors to the polling booths opened at 9:00am (local time), though a record number of voters had already cast their ballots in advance.

Voting will end at 7:00pm (local time) and the country's Electoral Commission will start releasing results 30 minutes later.

The centre-left Labour Party, led by recently appointed 37-year-old leader Jacinda Ardern, is vying against incumbent National Party.

The centre-right governing party, led by 55-year-old Bill English, has been in power for almost a decade.

About 986,000 ballots have already been cast, accounting for almost a third of the 3.2 million New Zealanders on the electoral rolls.

"Special votes," which includes ballots from New Zealanders overseas and those who vote outside their home constituencies, will only be released on October 7.

These could have a considerable impact on the outcome, given New Zealand's large diaspora, and accounted for about 12 per cent of the vote in the 2014 election.

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 per cent of the vote — to form a government.

This means that minor parties often play an influential role in determining which major party governs.

Reuters