Two ladies vie to steer New Zealand as voting opens | New Zealand

In the elections, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern could strengthen her government or face further challenges from conservatives led by Judith Collins.

New Zealanders began voting on Saturday in a general election that saw Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern bolster her left-wing stance on the government or a challenge from conservatives led by Judith Collins.

Labor leader Ardern, 40, and National Party leader Collins, 61, are the faces of the elections to the country’s 53rd parliament, a referendum on Ardern’s three-year term.

The polling station doors opened at 9 a.m. local time on Saturday (8 p.m. GMT Friday), despite a record number of voters having cast their ballots in advance.

There will be restrictions on media coverage of the race until the polls close at 7:00 p.m. (6:00 a.m. GMT). Thereafter, the electoral commission is expected to start publishing preliminary results.

More than 1.7 million ballots had been cast by Friday, almost half of the 3.5 million or so New Zealanders on the electoral roll.

Extra votes, including ballots from overseas New Zealanders and people voting outside their constituencies, will not be released until November 6th.

New Zealanders are also voting on referendums to legalize euthanasia and marijuana. The latter vote could make New Zealand the only third country in the world, after Uruguay and Canada, that allows the nationwide use and sale of cannabis by adults.

The results of the referendums will be announced on October 30th.

New Zealand switched to a proportional mixed membership system in 1996, in which a party or coalition needs 61 of the 120 seats in parliament – usually around 48 percent of the vote – to form a government.

This means that smaller parties often play an influential role in determining the government of the large parties.

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