New Zealand’s major political parties are scrambling to woo the support of the smaller New Zealand First party to form a government after Saturday’s stalemate election.
Neither the incumbent National party led by a revitalised Bill English, nor the opposition Labour party led by Jacinda Ardern are in a position to take office – with 15% of the vote still to be counted.
The ruling National party won 58 seats and Labour 45 – both short of the 61 needed to form a government in the 120-seat parliament.
New Zealand First’s Winston Peters – an unpredictable populist – has been left as the kingmaker after winning nine seats.
Coalition negotiations are expected to take weeks – possibly months – as all parties wait for the more than 300,000 special votes to be counted by 7 October.
Special votes are made up of overseas voters and voters who enrolled and voted on the same day.
The turnout on Saturday of 78.8% was lower than expected but slightly up from 77.9% in 2014.
Voter numbers were disappointing for Labour who were relying on young voters to push them into government.
However Maori voters showed a huge level of support for Labour – electing seven Labour politicians for the seven Maori-reserved seats in parliament.
The minor Maori party lost all its seats and a number of its members announced their retirement.